MarineFauna: A Turtle Haven

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Since 15 years the staff of MarineFauna (MF) is monitoring the reef in front of the facility. What we have noticed over the past years is the increase of both turtle species and individuals. More than 20 marine turtles about 4 species (namely green sea turtle, hawksbill, leatherback and olive ridley) are inhabiting the waters just in front of Marine Fauna Facility at a reef stretch of less than 1000 meters. This shows how healthy and undisturbed the coral reef is. Occasionally, some fishermen are using long line, which is a passive, selective fishing device and some do spear fishing, of course, without SCUBA tanks. Apparently, the turtles are not disturbed by this activity.

The hard-shelled reptiles show a regular behavioral pattern: Easy to spot early, during calm sea, sticking out their massive head and breathing air very much needed as a result of the night’s rest (they can hold their breath 4-7 hours depending on the level of activity) before starting to feed.

When approached carefully, you may be able to watch them, from as close as arm length distance, biting chunks out of the reef, preferably sponges. Feeding continues until late afternoon. We spot them during most of our dives. Special encounters happen during night dives though. Our manager was busy collecting some colored hermit crab species when he sensed the presence of a big animal. It was a large leatherback turtle about 1.5 m carapace size resting snuggly in a cave, he almost bumped into. After noticing the marine reptile (its hard to overlooked that one!), he took his flashlight beam off her and retracted slowly. The giant turtle must have had good dreams…she was not disturbed at all: