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We are super lucky, here in Cyprus we get the privilege to observe sea turtles in their natural habitat almost all year round.

Our island is home to the Green Sea Turtles (Chelonia mydas) and Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta Caretta) . They belong to a bigger sea turtle family, Cheloniidae, that also includes: Hawksbill Turtle, Flatback, Kemp’s Ridley, Olive Ridley and the Leatherback. Unfortunately all of those species are endangered, with three of them critically.

 Chelonia mydas , also known as the green sea turtle, black sea turtle, or Pacific green turtle, is a large sea turtle of the family Cheloniidae. The common name comes from the usually green fat found beneath its carapace or shell.

This sea turtle's  dorsoventrally flattened body is covered by a large, oval or heart-shaped carapace. The limbs are large paddle-like flippers for swimming, but cannot support the weight of the turtle on land. the carapace is usually lightly colored, although in the eastern Pacific populations parts of the carapace can be almost black.

Unlike other members of its family, such as the hawksbill sea turtle, C. mydas is mostly herbivorous. The adults usually inhabit shallow lagoons, feeding mostly on various species of seagrasses.

This is why they are very common around the areas of Protaras and Pervolia, where there are acers of Posidonias 

Sea turtles spend almost all their lives submerged, but must breathe air for the oxygen needed to meet the demands of vigorous activity. With a single explosive exhalation and rapid inhalation, sea turtles can quickly replace the air in their lungs. The lungs permit a rapid exchange of oxygen and prevent gases from being trapped during deep dives. Sea turtle blood can deliver oxygen efficiently to body tissues even at the pressures encountered during diving. During routine activity, green and loggerhead turtles dive for about four to five minutes, and surface to breathe for one to three seconds.
Turtles can rest or sleep underwater for several hours at a time, but submergence time is much shorter while diving for food or to escape predators. Breath-holding ability is affected by activity and stress, which is why turtles quickly drown in shrimp trawlers and other fishing gear.

Courtship and mating usually occur in shallow offshore waters. Mating often involves the male and female pair floating near the surface, with the male's carapace protruding from the water. They lay their eggs at the end of Spring with the peak of births in summer (June). Females can lay up to 5 times a year (usually 3) laying about 120 eggs at a time (20 - 200). The eggs are placed in cavities that their mother opens in the sand. The incubation lasts about 50 days.

Turtles are one of the oldest species of animals living on Earth. They go back as far as 100 millions year. 

The fossil record for Cheloniids places them among the oldest turtles. Six extinct genera, as well as the extant genera Caretta and Chelonia, date from the Upper Cretaceous of Europe and North America.

They have been around for 100 million years (outliving the dinosaurs) and now most, if not all, Cheloniids are under threat and are in need of conservation. They are protected from exploitation in most countries. It is illegal to collect, harm or kill them.  There are a few factor that play a roll in the declining numbers and the common factor seems to be humans.

  • Unfortunately turtles and their eggs are hunted for food. 

  • Pollution indirectly harms turtles at both population and individual scales.

  • Real estate development often causes habitat loss by eliminating nesting beaches.

  • Climate change – warmer temperatures cause more female turtles being hatched, which disrupts the balance

  • Bycatch – they often drown caught in the nets or trawls together with other fish

Want to experience seeing a turtle up close in their natural habitat? Get in touch to organize a dive or snorkeling trip.   

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