Being a veterinarian is fantastic, but sometimes, you just want to see the world. We’d love to plan a global tour to see exotic animals across the planet, but my wife and fellow veterinarian, Dr. Julaine Hunter, and I are so busy with our wonderful patients here at LazyPaw Animal Hospitals that it’s hard to say when we’ll get a chance. Instead, I thought it would be fun to virtually explore amazing animals all over the world—plus, share our dream itinerary with you!
Our first stop… Hawaii!
Hawaii has long been praised for its stunning weather, spectacular scenery, and vibrant wildlife. The islands represent both stunning diversity as well as the fragile nature of biological ecosystems. In the last few decades alone, many native species have become endangered or extinct because it’s so easy for invasive species to travel on airplanes and boats.
Hawaii is home to five species of sea turtles, and two of them are often spotted by snorkelers. Sea turtles have faced lots of dangers from light pollution, which confuses turtles into migrating too far onto the shoreline instead of the ocean. Hatchlings have also been killed by passing cars when they tried to cross roads onto nesting beaches, a tragic consequence of development. Poaching and fishing accidents have been another huge problem.
Honu, or green sea turtles, are suffering from a strange disease called fibropapillomatosis, a virus that causes cauliflower-like tumors to grow internally and externally, which eventually keeps the turtle from finding food, breathing, moving, and digesting food. Scientists worldwide are trying to understand the cause and find a cure.
Honus live about 80 years. They don’t reach sexual maturity until 25-50 years of age, which is part of the reason protecting nests and hatchlings is so crucial to species survival. Green turtle adults are about 40 inches long and weigh anywhere between 200-500 pounds, making their angelic glides through open water even more stunning to see.
Sea turtles have outstanding navigation skills—entire generations often migrate between the same set of feeding and nesting areas. The slow-moving turtles cruise around the water at just under two miles per hour.
If you’re as interested in seeing Hawaiian sea turtles as we are, you better hustle. The beautiful species is incredibly endangered, but the good news is that everyone can help. Check out organizations such as the Sea Turtle Conservancy, which help educate the public and work toward sea turtle research, protection, and preservation. When you’re traveling to any beach, pay attention to any information about protecting local wildlife, such as restricting light usage near the coast at night and driving carefully.
All sea turtles are incredible, and Hawaiian turtles are awe inspiring. Support their survival with donations of time or funding, and if you ever get the chance to see one in person, be respectful and keep your distance.