Scuba diver has thrilling encounter with endangered sea turtle
Hawksbill sea turtles are one of the most beautiful turtles in the world. They are also one of the most endangered. Hunted to near extinction in the past 50 years for their beautiful shells, these turtles declined to less than 20 per cent of their numbers. Fishing and catch nets also took their toll on the turtles, as did habitat destruction, pollution and egg harvesting. Extremely rare, these turtles bring a lot of delight to divers who are lucky enough to meet up with one of them on the reef.
Chris is a biology student with a love for all animals, especially turtles. As he hovered over the coral, exploring the marine park on Little Cayman Island a large female Hawksbill drifted curiously toward him. Cruising over the reef looking for sea sponges, this turtle was more than comfortable swimming along with Chris and he was thrilled to be enjoying such a close look. The turtle was undisturbed by his presence and it calmly went about looking for food while he drifted beside it only a few feet away. These turtles are usually shy and reclusive, choosing to avoid humans. Chris knows that a slow and cautious approach will sometimes put animals at ease. His patience paid off and he was able to swim close to this turtle for more than ten minutes. Hawksbills are crucial to the health of the coral reefs. They eat sponges and algae that would become overgrown, threatening the coral and affecting the whole balance of the ocean ecosystems.
Turtles this size have few natural predators aside from large sharks. They appear to be bulky and clumsy, but they are actually graceful swimmers, capable of putting distance between them and a threat in an instant. If the turtle had any apprehension, a few quick flaps of its powerful flippers would be all that was needed.