This week I'm spending my time on, and under the waters surrounding, Taveuni, the third largest of the islands in the archipelago that is Fiji. I hope to return with spectacular shots of beautiful soft corals, stunning reef fish, and maybe a shark or two. For now, I'm presenting a photo taken in another tropical paradise - the island of Kauai in the Hawaiian Islands.
Today's subject is a green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas), a species that is found in tropical & subtropical seas worldwide. Strict vegetarians, they are among a small group of reptiles that have evolved to a marine lifestyle. This group includes six other species of turtles and about 80 species of sea snakes. There are also a few other species that are occasionally found in brackish or saltwater. These include a few other snakes, the saltwater crocodile, and the marine iguana.
Green sea turtles, like many other sea turtles, are officially listed as endangered, and protected from exploitation in most countries. Perhaps the biggest threat to this and other sea turtles is the destruction of critical nesting sites on beaches that have been developed for human uses.
Green sea turtles are long distance migrators, with females return to the beach upon which they hatched from an egg buried in the sand. This sometimes entails journeys of thousands of miles, and requires extraordinary navigation skills, which have yet to be fully understood.
But having made the journey, the female doggedly searches for a suitable site in which to laboriously dig a nest, and deposit her eggs. If she is able to accomplish this in the face of coastal development, she then returns to the sea, leaving her eggs to incubate and hatch on their own.
It is already tough enough for the hatchlings to make it to the sea, and almost none are likely to grow to be mature adults. But coastal development adds a further challenge these hatchlings face. A challenge, if not surmounted, means certain death. Upon hatching, young turtles instinctively head toward the brightest light they see. This would normal be the moon, since most hatch at night. This would also normally lead them to the sea and the horizon. But with the bright lights of coastal developments, many hatchlings mistake them for the moon, and head inland, where there is no hope for survival.
World-wide efforts are underway to protect young turtles from this danger. People are taking the initiative to help the turtles take the right road to a life in the sea. While most will still not survive, at least they have the benefit of starting in the right direction.
This photo was taken with a Canon EF17-40 mm f/4.0 lens zoomed to 17 mm on a Canon EOS 10D. The exposure was set to 1/60 sec at f/5.6 and ISO 100.