The endangered green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) may be the most widely recognized of the sea turtles. Their name is derived from the color of their fat, which is green due to an accumulation of chlorophyll from the plants they eat! There are seven species of sea turtle worldwide, including the loggerhead, leatherback, hawksbill, olive ridley, and flatback, and the most endangered Kemp’s ridley. Female green sea turtles always return to the same beach where they were born to lay their eggs. They use their flippers to dig a pit in the sand, fill it with a clutch of 100 to 200 eggs, cover the eggs with sand and return to the sea. An estimated 200 to 1,000 green sea turtles lay their eggs on US beaches each year.
The greatest threats affecting all sea turtle populations are human-related and include entrapment, hunting, and ingestion of foreign objects. Historically, thousands of turtles were killed after getting caught in fishing nets, however federal regulations now require all nets to have turtle excluder devices (TEDs) built into them. Sea turtle populations are threatened by illegal hunting for the meat their bodies provide which is considered a delicacy in many countries and their shells which are used to make sunglasses and jewelry. Many turtles are killed when they mistakenly ingest plastic bags and other forms of litter that look like prey animals such as jellies. Sea turtles are also affected by fibropapillomatosis, a disease that causes multiple tumors on the skin and internal organs, which make swimming, eating, and breathing very difficult.
The AZA Chelonian Taxon Advisory Group is involved in sea turtle conservation and biologists from AZA-accredited institutions are engaged in sea turtle monitoring and nesting projects. Several AZA-accredited institutions participate in the rescue, rehabilitation, and subsequent release of sea turtles that strand due to injury, entanglement, or illness.
Green Sea Turtle Facts
||Green sea turtles can weigh up to 700
pounds! Their carapaces (shells) can
exceed 5 feet in length.
||A green sea turtle's top shell is smooth, and is
shades of black, gray, green, brown, and yellow. Their mouth is similar to a
bird’s beak, and is very sharp.
||Green sea turtles inhabit
tropical and subtropical coastal waters in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans.
||Sea turtles are
herbivores (plant-eaters) and their diet consists mainly of sea grasses and
||Sea turtles breed every 2
to 4 years.