The hawksbill is a species of sea turtle belonging to the family Cheloniidae that’s now famous for its rapidly dwindling numbers. Rated as critically endangered by the IUCN, the hawksbill is swiftly being driven to extinction, primarily due to human predation, with the meat and shells of the animal highly prized on black markets worldwide.
Despite it now being illegal to hunt and kill hawksbills in many countries, the practice continues unabated, with thousands of turtles being captured and killed each year. Despite the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITIES) forbidding their sale, hawksbills are still bought for their meat for consumption, their shells for decorative purposes, or even their anatomy for medicinal purposes.
Hawksbills live throughout the seas of the world, however they typically mate in lagoons and then proceed to deposit their eggs on specific nesting beaches. As humans have expanded throughout the world over the last 200 years, these nesting sites have been severely depleted, with tourist resorts driving thousands of the turtles out and jeopardising their reproductive ability.
Of all sea turtle species, the hawksbills is the one most closely associated with tropical waters, with the turtles found today – even in their dwindling numbers – commonly around reefs in the Indian, Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Climate change, however, is affecting their distribution, with traditional fixed sites abandoned and variable worldwide distribution becoming more common.