Scientific Name: Chelonia mydas
IUCN Red List Status: Endangered
One of the largest sea turtles in the world is the beautiful green sea turtle. Its range extends throughout tropical and subtropical waters, having two distinct populations in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, but can also be found in the Indian Ocean.
The green turtle normally weighs around 160kg and is often over a meter long! Like all other sea turtles, they have non-retracting heads. Reptiles form only a small part of the ocean's animal life. Even fewer are herbivorous reptiles and this turtle is the only herbivore among the different species. They are actually carnivorous upon hatching feeding on soft-bodied invertebrates such as jellies and sponges, but progressively changes to a vegetarian diet as it grows. As an adult, its finely saw-like jaws are well adapted to eating sea grasses and algae. It is their greenish colour of their fat that they are named after – their shells are naturally brown!
They can live up to 80 years or more with a similar lifespans to humans! Most marine turtles take decades to mature, between 20 and 30 years. They migrate thousands of miles in their lifetime through ocean basins and high seas. Major nesting sites are common on either side of the Arabian Sea, both in neighboring Oman and along the coast of Pakistan.
Although, sea turtles have roamed the Earth’s oceans for the last 110 million years, sadly they are now classified as endangered and are threatened by the overharvesting of their eggs, hunting of adults, being caught in fishing gear and loss of nesting beach sites. They were once highly sought after for their body fat – a key ingredient in the popular delicacy, ‘green turtle soup.’ However, it has become illegal to trade them in many parts of the world and the UAE is taking significant steps to conserve the endangered species.