Sea turtles are fascinating creatures that have been living in our oceans for millions of years. In Sri Lanka, these creatures have a special place in the hearts of locals and tourists alike. The island is home to five of the seven known species of sea turtles, including the Green turtle, Olive Ridley turtle, Hawksbill turtle, Loggerhead turtle, and Leatherback turtle. However, these amazing creatures are under threat due to human activities and climate change. In this guide, we’ll explore the unique features of Sri Lanka’s sea turtles, the challenges they face, and the conservation efforts being undertaken to protect them.
Five Species of Sea Turtles in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is home to five out of the seven species of sea turtles in the world. They are the Green turtle, Olive Ridley turtle, Loggerhead turtle, Hawksbill turtle, and Leatherback turtle. These species are all either endangered or vulnerable due to human activities such as overfishing, pollution, and habitat destruction. Therefore, it is crucial to protect these species to maintain a healthy marine ecosystem.
The Green turtle is the most commonly sighted sea turtle in Sri Lanka. They are named after their green-coloured fat, and they can weigh up to 200 kilograms. The Green turtle can be found in many parts of Sri Lanka, including the southern coast, the eastern coast, and the west coast. They are herbivores and mainly feed on sea grass and algae. During the nesting season, female Green turtles come ashore to lay their eggs on the beaches. Turtle hatcheries have been established in Sri Lanka to protect eggs from predators and human activities.
Olive Ridley Turtle
The Olive Ridley turtle is the smallest of the sea turtles found in Sri Lanka. They are named after their olive-coloured shell and can weigh up to 50 kilograms. The Olive Ridley turtle is a vulnerable species due to their nesting behaviour. Unlike the Green turtle, Olive Ridley turtles nest in large groups known as arribadas. This makes them vulnerable to human activities such as beachfront development and egg poaching.
The Loggerhead turtle is a large sea turtle weighing up to 280 kilograms. They are named after their large head, which is shaped like a log. The Loggerhead turtle is a critically endangered species in Sri Lanka due to human activities such as bycatch and the destruction of their nesting sites.
The Hawksbill turtle is a critically endangered species in Sri Lanka due to their high demand for their beautiful shell. They are named after their narrow and pointed beak, which resembles a hawk’s beak. Hawksbill turtles can weigh up to 80 kilograms and are found in many parts of Sri Lanka, including the southern coast, the eastern coast, and the west coast.
The Leatherback turtle is the largest of all sea turtles, and it can weigh up to 900 kilograms. They are named after their leathery skin, unique among sea turtles. Leatherback turtles are rare in Sri Lanka and are mainly found in the island’s northern waters.
Conservation efforts are crucial to protect the sea turtles in Sri Lanka. Many organizations and government agencies have established turtle hatcheries to protect the eggs from predators and human activities. These hatcheries release the hatched turtles into the sea, ensuring that they have a higher chance of survival.
In addition, there are strict regulations in place to protect sea turtles in Sri Lanka. It is illegal to harm or kill sea turtles, and those who violate these laws can face heavy fines and imprisonment.
Best Places to Spot Sea Turtles in Sri Lanka
There are many places in Sri Lanka where you can spot sea turtles. Here are some of the best places to spot them:
- Rekawa Turtle Conservation Project – located on the south coast of Sri Lanka, this conservation project is known for its night patrols, where visitors can witness the nesting of Green turtles.
- Kosgoda Turtle Hatchery – located on the west coast of Sri Lanka, this hatchery is dedicated to the protection and conservation of all five species of sea turtles found in Sri Lanka. Visitors can learn about the hatchery’s conservation efforts and even release baby turtles into the sea.
- Pigeon Island National Park – located off the east coast of Sri Lanka, this national park is a popular destination for snorkelling and diving. Visitors can spot Hawksbill turtles while swimming in crystal-clear waters.
- Mirissa Beach – located on the south coast of Sri Lanka, Mirissa Beach is a popular spot for surfing and whale watching. Visitors can also witness the nesting of Green turtles on the beach.
- Trincomalee Beach – located on the east coast of Sri Lanka, Trincomalee Beach is a beautiful stretch of golden sand where visitors can spot Olive Ridley turtles nesting during the arribadas.
Please take a look at the list we have created of all sea turtle hatcheries in Sri Lanka to find more places to spot sea turtles.
The sea turtles that visit Sri Lanka are a magnificent sight to behold. With their unique characteristics and behaviours, they are an important part of the marine ecosystem. It is crucial to protect these species from human activities to maintain a healthy marine ecosystem. By visiting turtle hatcheries and observing sea turtles in their natural habitats, we can appreciate their beauty and contribute to their conservation efforts. Sri Lanka is truly blessed to be home to five out of the seven species of sea turtles in the world, and we must work together to protect them for future generations to enjoy.