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Updated by Joanna James on Feb 11, 2018
Headline for List of the Types of Sea Turtles in Kosgoda Turtle Hatchery – Turtley Awesome!
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Joanna James Joanna James
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List of the Types of Sea Turtles in Kosgoda Turtle Hatchery – Turtley Awesome!

Sri Lanka is proud to call itself host to 5 of the 7 species of sea turtles still alive today. The Kosgoda Turtle Hatchery is the best place to go if you want to encounter each of the five species!

1

Green Turtle

The green turtle grows to about 5ft in length and is the second largest of the extant sea turtle species. It is also the only herbivorous sea turtle, feeding exclusively on seagrass and algae. Through their grazing, green turtles help to maintain seagrass beds and increases their productivity by digesting and recycling nutrients. The species is listed as 'Endangered' with overharvesting of eggs, habitat loss and hunting of adults stated as some of the main threats to their existence.

The more you know: Sea turtles return to the place at which they were born, to nest. Kosgoda is popular especially because it hosts all five of the sea turtles that visit Sri Lanka.

2

Hawksbill

Hawksbills, named for their hawk-like, narrow, pointed beaks, are a 'Critically Endangered' species. Their beautiful, coloured and patterned shells are coveted by commercial trade, which is one of the main causes for the rapid decline in their populations – Hawksbill shells are what is commonly sold as 'tortoiseshell' in the market. The species mostly occurs in coral reefs and feed on sponges, sea anemone and jellyfish. Like all other sea turtle species, Hawksbills are a vital part of their ecosystem and help maintain coral reef health and increases their productivity.

The more you know: Unlike birds who evolved from dinosaurs, dragonflies who used to have wingspans of up to 2 feet and us, humans, who used to be a lot hairier, sea turtles have barely changed in appearance over the last 100 million years! They are ancient relics that lived among dinosaurs – outliving countless other species and surviving several mass extinctions!

3

Loggerhead

Loggerheads have relatively large heads that support an incredibly powerful jaw that allows them to crush their hard-shelled prey species like sea urchin and clams. Due to their frequent visits to fisheries, loggerheads are prone to become bycatch which is one of the main reasons they hold a 'Vulnerable' species status. In addition to contributing to the maintenance and health of their ecosystem, loggerhead's shells actually carry small colonies of animals and plants, making them important species habitats themselves!

The more you know: depending on the species, sea turtles lay 50 to 350 eggs in one clutch and lay 1 to 8 clutches in one season! Unfortunately, not all these hatchlings survive to adulthood, most are eaten by predators like crabs, sea birds and sharks.

4

Olive Ridley

The olive green hue of their shells gives Olive Ridley's their name. The species is the smallest of the seven living sea turtles and has the largest population size. Despite this, however, the species is still listed as 'Vulnerable', mostly due to the fact that the species nests in a very small number of places around the world. So the protection of Olive Ridley nesting sites in Sri Lanka is vital to their survival.

The more you know: the Ridley turtles (Olive Ridley and Kemp's Ridley) nest en masse in an event known as an arribada. Hundreds and sometimes thousands of individuals emerge on shore, at the same time, to nest!

5

Leatherback

The largest living sea turtle species, the leatherback grows to about 2m in length on a diet that focuses almost exclusively on jellyfish. The species is the only surviving 'soft-shell' sea turtle – its shell is soft, like leather, rather than hard as in the other species – and is also the most migratory of the seven. Leatherbacks are also the oldest of all the extant species (more than 150 million years old) and they are the largest reptile alive today!

The more you know: all five of these species can be seen at the Kosgoda hatchery, which protects eggs and rescues and rehabilitates injured turtles. The hatchery is one of the more popular things to do in Kalutara district and its outskirts with many hotels in the area, like Anantara Kalutara Resort, offering guided trips.