The Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas) is one of our islands’ four relatively common species of sea turtles. This large sea turtle is named after the green color of its body fat, a coloring that results from the Green Turtle’s unique herbivorous diet. Adults live on a diet of sea grass and algae, although young Green Turtles also eat invertebrates such as crabs, shrimp and jellyfish.
When feeding, Green Turtles typically stay under water for 5 to 10 minutes, but when resting they can stay under for 2 to 3 hours! They don’t need to come up for air during that time because their muscles and blood store large quantities of oxygen; their heart rate also drastically slows down to conserve as much oxygen as possible. Green Turtles are known to nest on Bonaire’s sandy beaches as well as forage in coral reef areas, mangroves and seagrass beds.
A number of monitoring projects have taken place to better understand the life cycles and migratory routes of this globally endangered species. Like other sea turtles, Green Turtles migrate vast distances between their nesting and foraging grounds. DCNA, in collaboration with the Stenapa St Eustatius and the St. Maarten Nature Foundation carried out a study between 2006 and 2008 to track the migration route of both green and hawksbill turtles found on St. Eustatius and St. Maarten. The result? All four turtles that were attached with tracking devices travelled in a different direction—one went to the Dominican Republic, one to St Bartholomew, one to St Kitts and Nevis, and one stayed in St. Eustatius.
Regular monitoring of Green Turtles by Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire has also revealed much about their foraging and nesting activities. We now know that female Green Turtles nest on Bonaire’s beaches at intervals of 2 to 3 years, and that adults are rarely seen outside the breeding season. Juveniles, however, are observed foraging year round in the waters around Bonaire. Through DNA analyses, it was found that these sea turtles come from other parts of the Caribbean and the South Atlantic. Some Green Turtles were found to come as far away as West Africa.