Papua New Guinea (PNG) is home to six of the worlds seven sea turtle species of which all but the flatback turtle come ashore to nest. Sea turtles have always been part of PNG culture providing meat, eggs and ornaments that hold special places in the PNG culture but would these animals be here forever?
15,120 turtles are killed in PNG each year
Right now all seven sea turtle species are endangered. A study released by the United Kingdoms University of Exeter showed that approximately 42,000 sea turtles are killed worldwide every year and PNG contributes more that 36 percent of this figure, thats a whooping 15,120 turtle deaths each year.
Where the harvest of sea turtles was once for “home use” only, this practice is now being expoilted for money.
Sea turtles that migrate through the waters of PNG include the Loggerhead, Flatback, Green, Hawksbill, Pacific Ridley and Leatherback turtles. All but the Flatback come ashore to nest. Turtle nesting season in PNG is usually between the months of November through January.
Loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta)are the second largest hardshelled turtle species and can grow up to 95 cm in length, reaching weights up to 200 kg although the heaviest one tipped the scales at 545 kg. Loggerheads can be identified by their yelow-orange to reddish-brown carapiece and pale yellow plastron (underside). Loggerheads also have five vertebral scutes rinning down the turtles midline bordered by fove pairs of coastal scutes.
Next week: Flatback turtles
Rom and Zai Whitalker (1982) Reptiles of Papua New Guinea