Turtles in Sri Lanka
The Green Turtle is the most commonly found turtle in Sri Lanka. They are also found in the Indian, Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Their English name refers to the colour of the fat found under their upper shell, which is unfortunately used to make turtle soup. Luckily this practice is less common today. Young Green Turtles are mainly carnivorous. Adults however are herbivorous, feeding only on marine vegetation with the help of their finely serrated jaws.
They grow to a maximum length of 1m and can weigh 250kg. Adult females lay between 120-140 eggs at a time. Green Turtles are often found on the beach at night. They tend to nest only every few years but when they do they lay several times in one season.
The critically endangered, Hawksbill Turtle is rare than the Green Turtle. It is also much smaller reaching a maximum length of 90 cm and weighing 50 – 70 kg.
The Hawksbill gets its English name from its narrow head and bird-like beak, which is used to catch animals hiding in small crevices. It is a regular visitor to Sri Lanka and other tropical and sub-tropical waters.
Although one of the smaller species of sea turtles, it is renowned for its beautiful shell, which is made up of 13 symmetrical pieces and is very colorful. Sadly this has made it a target for traders – Hawksbill Turtle shell is the sole source of commercial “tortoise-shell”.
The Loggerhead Turtle is rare in Sri Lanka and commonly found on the East Coast of America. They are usually red and brown in colour and as its name suggest, are easily identifiable because of its large head.
It grows to a maximum size of 1m and weighs 170 – 200 kg. They are primarily carnivorous and its large muscular jaws are ideal for crushing mollusks and crustaceans.
Olive Ridley Turtle
This turtle is endangered because the population depends on the security of a small number of beaches found in the Indian, Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. They have been heavily hunted in the past for their meat and hide.
The smallest of the sea turtles and one of the two species of ridley turtle, the Olive Ridley reaches a maximum size of 65 cm and weighs 35-45 kg. It is named after its olive/rust colored shell.
Olive Ridley Turtles nest yearly and many lay their eggs on Kosgoda Beach, depositing more than 150 at a time. They are omnivores, eating crustaceans, fish and some marine vegetation.
This critically endangered turtle is the largest of the 5 species and is a rare find in Sri Lanka. It remains on the brink of extinction.
It is easily identifiable due to its long front flippers and unique black and white stripy shell – its carapace is in fact a layer of thin, tough, rubbery skin peppered with thousands of bone plates giving it a leathery appearance. It is in fact only sea turtle that lacks a hard shell.
In addition, they have a unique blood circulatory system for a cold-blooded reptile which means they are able to keep their blood warm even in cold waters using metabolic heat from their muscle activity.
The Leatherback reaches a maximum length of 3 m and a weight of 750 kg. Their unique flexible carapace and its seven ridges enable them to dive to depths of 1500 m in search of their favourite food, the jellyfish.
Around 5 Leatherback Turtles are known to nest at Kosgoda Beach each year.
SEA TURTLE CONSERVATION PROJECT
Kosgoda Sea Turtle Conservation Project is run by Dudley Perera and his family. The project has been underway since 1988. The main objective of the project is to monitor local sea turtle activity and conserve the local nesting sites. We hope to make the public more aware of how endangered these beautiful creatures are and just how important it is to help protect them before it is too late.
One of the most important activities of the project is its hatchery. Within the sanctuary of the project, collected and rescued eggs can hatch safely away from predators before being released into the sea at night-time. In addition, a certain number from each hatching are kept back for a short period for ‘headstarting’ before release. The hatchery program is designed to maximize the number of hatchlings reaching the sea and surviving through the critical stages of their early life. Only a few hatchlings from each batch will ever make it to adulthood. Therefore every nest-ground, every egg, every hatchling and every turtle is crucial to the survival of the species. Unfortunately, sea turtles face many dangers.
The project’s work relies on fundraising and grants. The project helped clear and maintain the local beach, protecting vital nesting-grounds (particularly important after the devastation of the Tsunami) and released over 200,000 hatchlings to the wild since 1988. When you consider how long the project has been going, you can begin to understand the impact the project has.
Top Things to do in Sri Lanka
Turtles in Sri Lanka : Turtle watching tours in sri lanka,turtle conservation project sri Lanka, rekawa turtle conservation project, marine turtles sri lanka, turtle eggs, turtle species in sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is globally recognized as one of the few places in the world where you can observe marine turtles in their natural habitat.