Hawksbills are named for their narrow, pointed beak. They also have a distinctive pattern of overlapping scales on their shells that form a serrated-look on the edges. These colored and patterned shells make them highly-valuable and commonly sold as "tortoiseshell" in markets.
Hawksbills help maintain the health of coral reefs. As they remove prey such as sponges from the reef's surface, they provide better access for reef fish to feed. They also have cultural significance and tourism value. For example, for local residents in the Coral Triangle, the flow of visitors who come to admire turtles is a vital source of income.
Like other sea turtles, hawksbills are threatened by the loss of nesting and feeding habitats, excessive egg collection, fishery-related mortality, pollution, and coastal development. However, they are most threatened by wildlife trade.
Despite their current protection under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and many national laws, there is still a disturbingly large amount of illegal trade in hawksbill shells and products. They are much sought after throughout the tropics for their beautiful brown and yellow carapace plates that are manufactured into tortoiseshell items for jewelry and ornaments. In recent decades, eastern Asia has provided an eager market for tortoiseshell.
Information and Pictures:
Hawksbill Turtle. (n.d.). Retrieved June 25, 2020, from https://www.worldwildlife.org/species/hawksbill-turtle