Marc Schlossman


Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), FMNH no. 31009. Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago. Conservation status: critically endangered. Hawksbill Turtles are distributed throughout the tropics. The primary threats to Hawksbill Turtles are the the illegal trade in tortoiseshell (as its shell, prized throughout history, is called), harvesting of eggs from nests on beaches, incidental capture in fisheries and climate change. Nesting surveys are the best tool for judging the staus of this species and nesting activity has declined by 85% in three generations. Nesting sites are also under threat by rising sea levels. Rising sand temperatures may affect sex ratios because hatchling gender is determined by incubation temperature, where warmer nests result in more females. International trade in the species is banned by its listing on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) but extensive illegal trafficking continues. Many conservation efforts are in effect, including protection of nesting sites. However, preventing black market trade is the key to saving this species. In 1988, a stockpile of seized shells was burned by the Seychelles government, similar to the burning of ivory in Kenya.

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Marc Schlossman
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