Critically endangered turtle enjoys treats & affection from human friends

Hawksbill sea turtles are critically endangered. Hunted to the brink of extinction for meat and for their beautiful shells, their populations dwindled in the last century. Their decline became a focus of conservation groups around the world and efforts were make to protect their nesting areas and to make hunting them illegal. This female hawksbill was rescued as a young turtle and cared for by researchers at a conservation facility in Papua New Guinea. When the turtles were old enough to survive in the wild, they were released in an isolated area near a coral head. Researchers return to the coral head several times per year to document growth, damage, and populations of marine life. They check on these friendly little turtles too and they are always relieved to see that they are doing well. The turtles seem to remember the earlier interaction with humans and they understand that people can provide them with food. The turtles are curious enough to approach and follow scuba divers, but they have an ability to recognize one of the divers and distinguish him from the others. They seek him out first before approaching the others. Ronnie has taught them that they can find their favourite food; yellow sponge, between the rocks and coral and he has shown them how to scrape it out. But some sponges are inaccessible and he gives them a little help. Ronnie will also provide the other divers with pieces of sponge so that they can make friends with these gentle little sea turtles. The life in our ocean is sensitive to even the smallest of changes brought about by climate, pollution, or habitat loss. One small error on our part can have a devastating effect on a whole ecosystem and the animals that depend on the perfect balance. This one loves his treats and chin scratches!

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