Hawksbill turtles are one of the most beautiful and important marine species. They help maintain the health of our reefs by dining on algae and sea sponges, they help to promote coral growth and regeneration, and give reef residents access to food sources. In fact, our very own Great Barrier Reef is home to a vital breeding population of these unique turtles.
As hawksbill turtles are migratory animals, they travel ancient migration routes through the warm waters of the Asia-Pacific through islands like Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands. But sadly, danger lurks ahead...
A deadly trade
These precious turtles are being hunted for their shells, commonly known as ‘tortoiseshell’. Their shell is made up of a unique pattern of ambers, yellows and browns. Once they leave the safety of the Great Barrier Reef, they are hunted and turned into souvenirs and trinkets such as jewellery, hair combs, sunglasses and ornaments.
Unfortunately, holidaymakers are unwittingly helping to push the hawksbill turtle to the brink of extinction by purchasing exotic tortoiseshell souvenirs while overseas.
Think before you buy
Though hawksbill products were banned internationally in the 1990s, the illegal trade continues. A new demand has re-emerged, putting these beautiful marine turtles at risk. Not only is it illegal to buy tortoiseshell in many countries, but upon returning home, travellers may face seizures and large fines.
Any Australian heading overseas to countries like Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Indonesia, Malaysia, mainland China, Japan, Vietnam and Korea could mistakenly purchase souvenirs made of REAL hawksbill shell.
WWF has partnered with another regular Pacific traveller - Royal Caribbean Cruises (RCL) - to highlight the hawksbill's plight and help halt the illegal trade of tortoiseshell.
If you have a tortoiseshell item in your possession, now is the time to Surrender Your Shell. By surrendering your tortoiseshell products - you can add to our ground-breaking ShellBank and help to play a part in the survival of this species. To support this initiative, the Australian Government has adopted a policy that for a six month period from 1 December 2020, you may send your tortoiseshell products to us, along with details of where and when they were purchased, without the risk of prosecution. Learn more and Surrender Your Shell today.