Turtle Conservation Project (TCP) of Sri Lanka | Hawksbill Turtle
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Hawksbill Turtle


Scientific Name

Eretmochelys imbricata


Conservation status

Critically endangered





Average lifespan

Unknown but estimated to be 50 years or more


Average adult weight

45 – 68 kgs


Average adult size

75 – 95 centimeter


Biogeographic realm

Tropical waters of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans

Hawksbills are also relatively small turtles which are named for their narrow birdlike beak. They have a distinctive pattern of overlapping scales on their carapace which has been used to make ornaments. This uncommon pattern and the colors of hawksbill carapace make them highly valuable as well as vulnerable to getting hunted. They inhabit tropical coastal waters around coral reefs and are mostly carnivorous and prey on a large variety of animals including jellyfish, sponges, and crustaceans. They use their pointed beak to catch and pierce animals hiding in small crevices. Hence, they contribute to maintaining the health of coral reef ecosystems. Hawksbill turtles sometimes eat toxic sponges. Instead of being poisoned, they can store the toxins in their flesh. If a human eats the flesh of a Hawksbill turtle he can die from acute food poisoning. Hawksbills reach sexual maturity by the age of 20-25 years. After digging the pit they lay 130 – 160 eggs per single pit. The eggs will hatch in about 60 days. According to the estimations by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), millions of hawksbills have been killed within the last hundred years for the tortoiseshell trade. Hawksbill shell trade and egg poaching are still continuing even though the legal international hawksbill shell trade ended in 1993.