Scientific Name: Chelonia mydas
Malti: Il-fekruna il-ħadra
Green turtles (Chelonia mydas) can be found throughout the Mediterranean; around the Levantine Basin as well as the Aegean Sea. The green turtle’s main nesting sites are present in Turkey, Cyprus and Syria, with smaller numbers in Lebanon, Israel and Egypt. The average number of documented nests in the Mediterranean is over 1500 per year. The green turtle can weigh up to 230kg, with the carapace growing up to 110cm. It has a flattened body, with an oval smooth and shiny carapace (the loggerhead’s carapace is instead more heart shaped), with a dark olive green coloration occasionally with hints of black, although the colour cannot be used as a distinguishing feature of this species.
Its main distinguishing features include the presence of: 4 pairs of costals (large scutes running down each side of the carapace) almost all of the same size and one pair of prefrontal scutes between the eyes (unlike the loggerhead which has 5 pairs of costals and 2 pairs i.e. 4 prefrontal scutes.
The green turtle is diurnal and forages in daylight. They bask on isolated shores, or while floating at the surface where solar heat can be absorbed by its dark carapace. Adult green turtles mainly eat sea-grass and algae and in fact the name ‘green’ has been given to such turtles because of the colour of their fat and not because of the colour of their appearance. On the other hand, young turtles tend to be carnivorous.
The green turtle is seriously threatened on a global scale. The main threats affecting this species in the Mediterranean are impacts on its nesting beaches, along with indirect impacts by fisheries and other threats. As a result of this, Chelonia mydas is listed as endangered by the IUCN (the International Union for Conservation of Nature: the world’s oldest and largest global environmental organization) and CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). The latter Convention aims at ensuring that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival and/or bans such trade altogether. The Green turtle is also strictly protected through many regional and international conventions so it is therefore illegal to collect, harm or kill it.
The green turtle is quite rare locally and was officially recorded in the Maltese waters in 1929. Recently, however, information was received through this project, about at least 2 other potential sightings of the Green turtle from NGOs (BirdLife Malta and Nature Trust Malta) while they were carrying out other surveys at sea.