Hawksbill sea turtles play a vital role in the world’s oceans. They help maintain the health of coral reefs by removing prey such as sponges from the reef’s surface, allowing better access for reef fish to feed. Unfortunately, the hawksbill sea turtles are now classified as critically endangered and face a unique threat. Hawksbill are usually the main sea turtle species hunted for their shells, also known as “tortoiseshell”, which have been used to make jewelry and souvenirs in many tropical countries.
As a traveler, it is important for us to know how to identify and avoid purchasing souvenirs that are made from these endangered shells. Selling turtle shell has been banned since the 1990s, and buying turtle shell products is illegal in most countries. Turtle shell products continue to be sold illegally in many Central American and Southeast Asian countries, and this has posed a threat to the population of this endangered species.
Click through the slideshow below to read some tips, sourced from fellow US Wildlife Trafficking Alliance contributor, Too Rare to Wear, to help you identify and avoid hawksbill turtle shell souvenirs:
By Alex Muir, WWF