Thursday, September 9, 2010

Pet Turtle Care: Where You Can Diving with Turtle

Green Turtles, Hawksbills, Olive Ridleys and Leatherbacks can be found when diving in the Indo-Pacific region. Other types of turtle are indigenous to specific areas for example the Black Turtle in the Americas and the Flatback in Australian waters.

Luckily for scuba divers, all but the Leatherback are found predominantly in coastal areas. Leatherbacks are highly oceanic and venture into shallower water only for breeding purposes.

Very few other creatures are as symbolic to marine conservation efforts as the sea turtle. The sad fact about turtles is that they are literally in the soup...

Loss of breeding grounds due to beach development is a particular concern given that some beaches which once witnessed thousands of turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs now see but a few. Human development, bright lights, rubbish and activity can all discourage females from nesting.

Discarded flotsam, such as plastic bags, are often mistaken by turtles as jellyfish with deadly consequences. Shrimp nets and other fishing apparatus also account for great numbers of turtles who become entangled and just like we would, run out of air and drown.

Turtle meat and soup is still widely available in many parts of the world, including Bali; and turtle eggs are considered an aphrodisiac in certain cultures. However deaths at the hands of humans are not always accidental. The shells are also highly prized for decorative purposes or to be transformed into items such mundane, functional items as combs and spectacles.

So what protective measures can be taken?

The "Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species" (CITES) controls international trade in endangered and threatened species. Sea turtles are covered under Appendix I of this agreement and receive protection from international trade by all countries that have signed the treaty.

On a local scale the dive resorts on Sipadan Island, for example, have been closed to tourists since January 2005 allowing an island which was previously full of nesting turtles to be given the chance to return to its former status. Scuba divers can however visit Sipadan Island by purchasing day permits. Many also adhere to strict rules regarding external lights at night and guests behaviour in relation to nesting.

Despite these measures, turtle populations are dwindling...

World-wide population numbers for sea turtle species do not exist and all figures you will find are based on estimates of the number of nesting females based on nesting beach monitoring reports and publications at varying times. As such it is difficult to state meaningful worldwide numbers.

However what is clear is that local population numbers all record declining populations across every species and the forecast for the future of the turtles on current rates of killing is bleak.

Do you want to know where you can dive with turtles?

Probably the best place is off Malaysia's coast of Sarah where dive spots such as Sipadan offer great turtle diving opportunities.

My recommendations for the best spots for you to dive with turtles are Sipadan Island, the Maldives, Komodo and the Similan Islands.

The island of Sipadan (and many others around Sabah's eastern coast) is a nesting site for turtles. Scuba divers who slip into the surrounding waters are often excited by their first sighting of a turtle. Resting in ledges and on corals, rising to the surface to breathe, the turtles are everywhere!. The excitement can soon turn to amazement as at some dives spotting 20 to 30 different turtles is not uncommon.

In Thailand, you can see turtles most frequently around the Similan Islands at sites such as Donald Duck Bay, but you may be lucky enough to spot them at just about any of the destinations, throughout the country.

The turtle is also among the sights you can expect when diving in Komodo, in Indonesia although you may find yourself distracted with all the other fantastic marine life here.