Hawksbill sea turtles are critically endangered. They are gorgeous, with ornately patterned shells and a unique facial structure, resembling the beak of a predatory bird. This striking beauty has caused a dramatic population decline for the hawksbills. They were already facing a threat due to meat and egg harvests, and they were placed at greater risk when their shells became the much sought-after material used to make jewelry boxes and hair clips. In the last century, their numbers plummeted, and they were on the brink of extinction. Conservation efforts and increased protection laws have helped this beautiful animal begin a comeback. These two turtles are actually success stories due to the efforts of researchers and rehab workers in Papua New Guinea. They were given critical care in their early years and then released back into the wild in a remote part of Kimbe Bay. Scuba divers visit the island where they live to document and study the wildlife and the ecosystem in this area. The turtles still trust humans, and they approach them curiously, looking for food and interaction. The turtles are interested in what the divers are looking at, and they will often swim between the divers and their photography subjects, competing for the attention of the divers. It is believed that these turtles remember the trust that they were shown, and they respond with particular interest to the specific diver that played a direct role in their upbringing and release. Hawksbill sea turtles are among the most beautiful and beloved animals in the ocean. To interact with turtles like this on their own terms is a beautiful and memorable experience.
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