Scuba divers love turtles! This may be making a fairly general statement, but I’m yet to see a diver not get excited when they see a sea turtle coming their way. World Turtle Day on 23 May is the perfect occasion to celebrate our flipped friends and give something back to them.
Established by American Tortoise Rescue in 2000, the aim of World Turtle Day is to increase our knowledge of and respect for turtles and tortoises, while encouraging positive action towards their survival for future generations.
As scuba divers, our interactions are mostly with sea turtles, which have a long and interesting history.
Sea turtles first made their appearance in the late Jurassic period, between 208 – 144 million years ago. They are one of the few living creatures to have witnessed the evolution and subsequent extinction of dinosaurs.
Today, there are seven species of sea turtle in the world: Flatback sea turtle, Green sea turtle, Hawksbill sea turtle, Kemp's Ridley sea turtle, Leatherback sea turtle, Loggerhead sea turtle and Olive Ridley sea turtle.
Six of them live in the warm waters of the Great Barrier Reef on Queensland’s north-eastern coastline, where encounters with scuba divers are a daily occurrence.
I can’t define what it is about these ancient mariners that makes such an impression on people, but certainly close encounters with our flippered friends are a highlight for many scuba divers around the world.
Unfortunately, our reptilian friends are facing a crisis, with around 50% of the world’s turtles and tortoises now considered threatened: all the more reason to use World Turtle Day as a calling card to raise recognition and awareness for our turtles, on May 23.
There are many ways and things you can do to help our turtles, right the world around. Many organisations offer the chance to adopt a turtle, where your donation and financial assistance helps fund turtle research and recovery.
You can also make a donation to a turtle rehabilitation centre or research group, which are situated on pretty much every major coastline around the world.
In Australia, the sea turtles of the Great Barrier Reef have been facing somewhat of a crisis of late. An unfortunate combination of several, severe tropical cyclones and heavy flooding in recent years has had major impacts on the sea grass beds.
Sea grass beds are a critical habitat and food supply for the Great Barrier Reef’s sea turtles. In Cairns, Queensland, the closest mainland point to the Great Barrier Reef – and a great dive destination – there is a turtle rehabilitation centre.
This not-for-profit organisation is committed to the care and rehabilitation of sick and injured sea turtles brought in from the Great Barrier Reef and Cape York Peninsula. Founded in 2000, the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre (CTRC) is currently expanding its operations thanks to some generous donations, including $20,000 from the World Wildlife Fund, to include a new facility on nearby Fitzroy Island. Once this is completed, CTRC will be able to care for up to 50 turtles at a time. This new centre opens in July 2012.
Cairns Dive Adventures loves sea turtles and is keen to spread the word on World Turtle Day, for more information please visit: http://cairnsdiveadventures.