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World Turtle Day 2021

World Turtle Day - 2021

Shedding light on sea turtles importance this World Turtle Day. 

World Turtle Day falls annually on May 23 – a day that was created as a yearly observance to enable people to celebrate and protect turtles and their disappearing habitats around the world. Environment Days are designated on the calendar to remind us to celebrate nature and to provide an opportunity to educate and bring to the forefront of people’s minds the issues and threats that our natural world is facing.

Hawksbill turtle, feeding in KZN waters by Nats Dos Santos

The end of the line.

Last month, a juvenile hawksbill sea turtle was found washed ashore on Treasure Beach, KZN, by Love Africa team member Casey Pratt. It appeared to have died from becoming entangled in fishing line around its neck.

“To find a turtle on the beach in this condition was rather distressing. As a photographer, I am uncomfortable sharing imagery that isn’t hopeful and inspiring, but at the same time it is important that people know the consequences our actions have.’’ – Casey Pratt.

This is not the kind of story we would like to share on World Turtle Day but it definitely brings home the kind of threats these species face at the hands of man.

Critically endangered hawksbill turtle found washed ashore on Treasure Beach, KZN - Casey Pratt

Critically Endangered

Hawksbills are named as such due to their narrow, pointed beak which resembles a bird of prey. They play an important role in reef communities as they feed mainly on sponges and algae, which if not kept under control, would suffocate reefs. However, it is while feeding in the crevices of the reef that they become susceptible to entanglements in ghost nets and fishing line and run the risk of getting caught on fishing hooks stuck on the reef which prevent them from surfacing to breathe.

The IUCN Red List of Endangered Species lists hawksbills as Critically Endangered in the South Western Indian Ocean. Like many sea turtles, hawksbills are faced with human-induced threats such as the loss of nesting and feeding habitats, excessive egg collection, fisheries-related mortality, pollution, and the biggest threat – wildlife trade.

Knowledge is key to conservation

“The ecological roles of sea turtles are so often overlooked. Perhaps it is because people simply do not know enough about them in our waters. We need to understand how important sea turtles are for reef ecosystem health and know the threats they face to better protect them.” – Natalie dos Santos, MSc student studying the in-water ecology and population dynamics of sea turtles in South Africa.

“Current research in South Africa focuses on two species that nest here; loggerhead and leatherback turtles. Little is known about the in-water component of these species lives – despite spending almost all their time in the ocean – and we know very little about green and hawksbill turtles in our waters despite being seen regularly by divers or in stranding and fisheries bycatch. Unpublished research has shown that South Africa may be a regionally important developmental area for juvenile hawksbill turtles who originate from the Seychelles. So it is important to learn more about them and figure out how we can better conserve this Critically Endangered species in our waters. We are working on a national project where Citizen Scientists (members of the public helping researchers answer scientific questions) may contribute to long-term monitoring of sea turtles in South Africa.” Natalie dos Santos.

Love Africa strives for environmental awareness and by bringing this find to your attention, we hope it reminds us of the impact we have on nature. Raising awareness can bring about behaviour change whilst encouraging us to look after nature, as it looks after us.

However, all is not lost. There are incredible organisations doing critical work to protect these animals and their habitat, and we are proud to work with a few of them.


Commit yourself to meaningful action and be one of 100 000 voices in support of the South African Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment and Minister Creecy, increasing protection of the ocean space around South Africa from 5% to 10%.


Love Africa’s top 5 organisations that you can support in marine conservation:

You can also help by removing discarded fishing line found on the beach or shallow coastal reefs and by sharing information on the threats to sea turtles with others.

Press release compiled by Love Africa Marketing.


Love Africa uses the passion and love for our continent to offer high quality marketing strategy and management services for the conservation and tourism sectors. We are privileged to work with top local and international brands and environmental organisations as well as on award winning global campaigns.