During our whale sighting trips in Tenerife we also come across other animals that are not cetaceans, and among them the most common is the loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta). These animals are very curious; Next, I am going to tell you the most interesting facts about this precious specie:
- Its adult size reaches between 90 and 150kg, with more than a meter long. The shell is reddish and hard and forms part of its skeleton, which is made up of more than 50 bones.
- Their diet is omnivorous, they have very strong jaws, but without teeth to eat crustaceans, sea urchins, corals, jellyfish or algae.
- Its distribution is in warm or temperate waters, although they are capable of making very long migrations. The turtles that we see during our tours were born in Florida and come to our waters guided by the currents when they are young. Here they feed and grow until they return to the same beach where they were born, where the females can spawn.
- They use the Earth’s magnetic field to orient themselves.
- They nest in the sand making a hole. They deposit about 100 eggs and after two months they hatch. The sex of the turtles will depend on the temperature: if it is high, more females will come out; if it is low, there will be a higher proportion of males.
- It is estimated that only 1 in 100 turtles reach adulthood.
- This species can live between 150 and 200 years.
During the whale watching tours, when we see turtles, we try to get closer to check their status, since sometimes we find them with problems due to ingestion of plastics, with injuries from hooks or entangled in ropes and bags. Climate change and human irresponsibility seriously affect this species. When we find turtles with problems, we take them and, in collaboration with the La Tahonilla Wildlife Recovery Center, they are treated and cared for and subsequently reintroduced into the marine environment when they are healthy.
For a few months, we have also participated in a project of the University of La Laguna where the aim is to make an identification catalogue of loggerhead turtles. This is possible since the distribution of the plates of the profiles of the face of each individual is different. Therefore, whenever we can, we send them all the photos we take so that they can proceed to that identification. This catalogue is being made due to the feeding problem on the island, where in some recreational activities, or even from the beaches, people provide the turtles with human food. This practice is dangerous because the turtles lose their instinct to return to Florida to reproduce and stay in the Canary Islands during their adult stage.
Encounters with these shy animals are always magical. And you, what are you waiting for to come meet them with us on our ecological tours?
About the Author:We are a small group of Marine Biologists, Naturalists and Photographers living in Tenerife. When we don't have whale and dolphin watching tours you will find us out on the boat, exploring all the amazing marine wildlife of Costa Adeje, Tenerife. We love what we do, we support research and conservation projects and we hope you will join us.