by Eco Kids Planet January 17, 2019

A Rare Ocean Beauty

Wow! What a stunning creature! The hawksbill turtle’s colourful shell and fancy patterns have made it world famous. But its beautiful looks are also one of the reasons why this amazing marine reptile has become a seriously endangered species.

Tropical tortoise-birds

Hawksbill turtles live in tropical waters all over the planet, including parts of the Pacific. They can be found right across this vast ocean – from Southeast Asia and the east coast of Australia to the west coasts of America. Their strange name comes from the shape of their beak, which looks a bit like a bird of prey’s bill. But hawksbills are best known for their oval shell, or carapace. These turtles have been hunted for their attractive shells for hundreds of years. The hard shell material is known as tortoiseshell (which is a bit confusing!). It’s used to make jewellery and ornaments. Wildlife trade in tortoiseshell is now banned, but it still happens in some parts of the world. 

Spongy snacks

Image credit: Alex Mustard / Hawksbill turtles love to eat sea sponges. They use their pointed, bird-like beaks to pick these weird animals out of cracks and crevices on coral reefs. This stops the sponges covering the coral too much and helps keep the reef healthy. One turtle can eat half a ton of sponges in a year. That’s like you eating 10,000 slices of sponge cake!

Image Credit (left): Alex Mustard / 


Beach babies

A female hawksbill turtle lays her eggs on the same tropical beach that she was born on. She drags herself ashore at night, digs a pit in the sand with her flippers, and fills it with over 100 eggs. The mother-tobe then crawls straight back into the sea, so she never even gets to see her own babies! They hatch about 60 days later and immediately hurtle together towards the waves. The heart-shaped hatchlings are tiny – just 2.5cm long and weighing only around 15g (similar to a £2 coin). Aww, cute!


Turtles in trouble

The number of hawksbill turtles in the world has dropped by a huge amount over the last 150 years. No one really knows how many are left in the ocean. Hawksbills are now CRITICALLY ENDANGERED, which means the chance of them becoming extinct is extremely high. The biggest danger is still from illegal hunting for their shells, but these turtles also face other threats:

  1. Egg collecting – turtle eggs are dug up and eaten by humans.
  2. Fishing – turtles are accidentally caught in nets or on hooks and drown.
  3. Changing climate – rising sea levels and more storms could destroy the beaches that turtles nest on.

Image credit (above) Jordi Chias /

Climate change could have another effect on hawksbill turtles. Whether a baby turtle is born male or female depends on the temperature of the egg while it’s incubating. Global warming might mean that more females than males are born in the future. This could make it harder for hawksbills to breed.

Eco Kids Unite! Help for hawksbills!

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and other conservation organisations are helping hawksbill turtles by:

  • Encouraging turtle tourism, so people can watch hawksbills in a wildlife-friendly way, rather than killing them for their shells
  • Persuading egg hunters to become egg protectors!
  • Finding turtle-friendly ways of fishing.

Good news! Some projects in the Pacific seem to be working. Scientists thought that hawksbills were extinct in the Eastern Pacific area until some were found nesting there in 2007. And the number of turtles in the Solomon Islands in the Western Pacific is thought to be going up, too! Hawksbill turtles play an important part in keeping marine habitats healthy – they aren’t just there to look pretty. But without them, our oceans certainly wouldn’t be as beautiful. 

Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.

In other Eco Kids Planet News

Monthly competition: natures rhyming riddle

by Eco Kids Planet January 07, 2022

Natures Rhyming Riddle Thank you to all the budding poets who entered our Nature Riddle competition. We have lots of fun solving your enigmatic rhymes. Some were easy to guess, while others were, indeed, like nature’s greatest mysteries! Congratulations to our five lucky winners! Emilia, age 7, Dund...

Make Your Own: Winter Wonderland Wreath
Make your own: winter wonderland wreath

by Eco Kids Planet December 13, 2021

Next time you go for a walk in the woods or the park, pick up some pine cones to make this little wreath. The different shades of green and little red bells will look lovely hanging in your home this festive season. You will need: Small pine cones Thin card (a flattened cereal box works well) Pain...

10 Reasons Why Eco Kids Planet Magazine is the Best Gift this Christmas
10 reasons why eco kids planet magazine is the best gift this christmas

by Eco Kids Planet December 09, 2021

Christmas is an exciting time! Children eagerly wait to see what surprises are waiting for them under the tree. Families bond over homemade food and board games. We pull crackers, tell jokes, watch films together and enjoy our new gifts. We understand why finding the perfect gift is important to y...