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Garbage Guts

Photo: Denice Askebrink

A healthy adult hawksbill turtle checking out divers in the Maldives. Photo: Denice Askebrink

By Blake Chapman

Why are turtles attempting to eat shopping bags, balloons and other forms of human rubbish in preference to natural food sources?

Dr Blake Chapman completed her PhD in marine biology and neuroscience at The University of Queensland, and is a freelance science communicator.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

The marine environment is an amazing place, filled with an assortment of species more diverse and wondrous than the most imaginative of human brains could ever concoct. This environment continually sustains, influences and inspires us, and many of the ocean’s inhabitants have won the hearts of the masses.

One of the more endearing families of animals in this environment is the marine turtles. Marine turtles are an important component of both traditional and modern cultures around the world. They are undeniably beautiful animals, with an inquisitive but laid-back behaviour that attracts snorkellers and divers to them the world over.

For the lucky few who have the opportunity to really get to know these animals, it becomes crystal-clear that the true depth of their beauty is often not fully recognised from fleeting glimpses, but is found in the slight but mesmerising natural variations in shell colour and pattern, the deep, dark eyes that beg for attention and understanding, and, above all else, the eccentricities in disposition among individuals.

The troubling reality, though, is that far out of our view is a silent but compounding threat to the health and vitality of these animals. It is completely man-made, affects every species of marine turtle and is getting worse every day. The threat is marine debris.

The term “marine debris” essentially...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.