Australia has its fair share of turtles, lizards, and snakes, thanks to its massive wilderness and ecosystem variety.
Today, we will discuss the 6 types of turtles you’re likely to encounter on Australian shores if you’re passionate about these reptiles and you want to meet them in the wild.
So, let’s discuss!
1. Flatback Turtle (Natator Depressus)
The Flatback turtle (Natator depressus) is a marine turtle that is endemic to the northern coast of Australia and the surrounding waters. As its name suggests, this species has a relatively flat shell, which sets it apart from other turtle species.
Flatback turtles are found mainly in the shallow coastal waters, reefs, and nearshore areas of northern Australia but will migrate to deeper offshore waters for breeding purposes as well. These turtles prefer the calm, sandy beaches of Kimberley and the Gulf of Carpentaria to lay their eggs.
Flatback turtles are medium-sized reptiles that can grow up to 3.5 feet in length and weigh up to 200 pounds. They have a relatively flat, oval-shaped carapace with a slightly curved edge that comes mostly in olive-gray or various nuances of brown. The turtle’s flippers are also unique, with a slightly curved shape, completely covered in small scales.
Flatback turtles are solitary creatures that spend most of their lives in the water, only coming ashore to lay eggs. They are not known for long migrations like other sea turtle species but do travel to deeper offshore waters for breeding purposes when the breeding season approaches. These turtles are generally active during the day, with their activities consisting mainly of swimming, feeding, and resting.
The Flatback turtle is a carnivorous species that feeds mainly on soft-bodied invertebrates such as jellyfish, squid, soft corals, and sea cucumbers. They also eat crustaceans and small fish and occasionally feed on seagrass for a plus of minerals and vitamins.
Flatback turtles are known for their unique behavior, such as their tendency to come ashore during the day to rest, which is unusual for sea turtles. They are also less likely to be spooked by humans, which makes them easier to observe in their natural habitat.
Can You Keep a Flatback Turtle as a Pet?
It is illegal to have a Flatback turtle as a pet in most countries, including Australia, where they are protected by law.
Additionally, as with all sea turtle species, keeping them in captivity is not recommended due to the difficulty of providing a suitable environment, diet, and care.
This can cause the turtle to become stressed, experience a weaker immune system, and fall victim to health problems along the way.
2. Green Turtle (Chelonia Mydas)
The Green turtle (Chelonia mydas) is a large sea turtle species found in tropical and subtropical waters around the world.
They are one of the most iconic species of sea turtles and are well known for their large size, distinct greenish color, and importance in marine ecosystems.
Naturally, they also thrive in the Australian oceanic waters, where you’re quite likely to meet them in their natural habitat.
Green turtles are found in the warm tropical and subtropical waters of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. They are commonly found in seagrass beds, coral reefs, and nearshore areas, where they feed on various types of marine vegetation. Green turtles are also known for their long-distance migrations to nesting beaches, which rack up thousands of miles away from their feeding grounds.
Green turtles are the largest of the hard-shelled sea turtle species, with adults reaching up to 4 feet in length and weighing up to 350 pounds. Their shell is a distinctive greenish-brown color, which is due to the algae that grow on their skin. The Green turtle’s flippers are large and paddle-like, making them efficient swimmers, especially on long distances.
This is a migratory species that spends most of its life in the water, only coming ashore to nest. They are known for their long-distance migrations, which can cover thousands of miles between their feeding and nesting grounds. During their migrations, they are known to use their navigational abilities to detect the Earth’s angle and magnetic field to orient themselves to their destination.
Green turtles are exclusive herbivores, the only herbivorous turtle species in the world, with their diet consisting mainly of marine vegetation such as seagrass and algae. They are known to be able to eat up to 3.3 pounds of seagrass in a day, which they gather while foraging in shallow waters near the shore.
Green turtles are generally shy creatures, but they can be curious and are known to approach boats and divers in some areas. They are also known to be vocal, making grunting noises while they are feeding or mating. Like other sea turtle species, these animals are vulnerable to human activities such as habitat destruction, pollution, and entanglement in fishing nets.
Can You Keep a Green Turtle as a Pet?
You cannot keep a Green turtle as a pet in most countries, including the United States and Australia. This is partly due to them being protected under the law and their difficulty in adapting to the conditions of captivity.
Plus, Green turtles are a migratory species that require large amounts of space to move around freely and engage in their natural behaviors, and you cannot replicate these conditions in captivity.
3. Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys Imbricata)
The Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) is a critically endangered sea turtle species that inhabits the tropical oceanic waters around the Australian shores.
They are known for their beautiful shell, which is highly sought after in the black market. This already highlights one of the issues that this species is facing.
Hawksbill turtles are found throughout the world’s oceans, including in the Australian waters, where they inhabit coral reefs, rocky areas, and shallow coastal waters. They are known to travel long distances to forage and nest, similar to green turtles, and can be found in waters ranging from the coast to the open ocean. Australia is one of their preferred dwelling regions, but not the only one.
Hawksbill turtles have a distinctive shell, typically brownish in color, covered with overlapping scutes that appear serrated along the edges. The shells also have a unique pattern of black and brown markings that resemble a tortoiseshell, which is why they are often targeted in the illegal trade. The Hawksbill turtle’s flippers are elongated and pointed, which makes them efficient swimmers, a feature often observed in long-distance migratory species.
These migratory creatures spend most of their lives in the water, only coming ashore to lay eggs. They are known to travel long distances to forage and nest and can be found pretty much everywhere in the ocean, depending on their current path and goals.
Hawksbill turtles are omnivores, and their diet consists mainly of sponges, which they consume by relying on their pointed beaks to break them off into small pieces. They also eat other types of marine vegetation, such as algae and seagrass, and small invertebrates.
These turtles are known for their unique behavior, such as their ability to swim backward and their tendency to remain in one area for long periods of time. Especially if the region is rich in resources, aka food. They are also known to vocalize their intentions when feeding, mating, or engaging in social interactions with other turtles, many of which are not friendly in nature. Like other sea turtle species, Hawksbill turtles are vulnerable to human-specific activities, which is why they are generally protected under the law.
Can You Keep a Hawksbill Turtle as a Pet?
You can’t, but you probably expected as much. Marine turtles are rarely fit for life in captivity, that is if you can even get past the local or international law that either bans or heavily regulates the trade and possession of turtles.
Then you have the migratory aspect that we’ve mentioned in green turtles, which also disqualifies this species as a potential pet.
4. Leatherback Turtle (Dermochelys Coriacea)
The Leatherback turtle is the biggest, heaviest, and most recognizable sea turtle species in the world and is typically found in temperate and tropical waters around the globe.
They are unique in that they have sacrificed their bony shell for a flexible, leathery carapace with a trademark appearance.
Leatherback turtles are popular in the temperate and tropical waters of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans, but they are also known to come to shore occasionally. They move very slowly on land, which is great if you plan on befriending one if you’re lucky enough to encounter it.
Leatherback turtles are also known for their unique ability to tolerate cold water temperatures, which allows them to travel to more northern latitudes than other sea turtle species.
Leatherback turtles are the largest of all sea turtle species, with adults reaching up to 8 feet in length and reaching up to a staggering 1,300 pounds. They have a distinctive, flexible carapace that appears black or dark blue in color with subtle white or pink spots.
The Leatherback turtle’s flippers are long and narrow, with a series of ridges along the edges. The turtle’s entire body is aquadynamic, which is a testimony of the reptile’s preference for aquatic habitats, as well as its swimming proficiency.
Leatherback turtles are migratory aquatic creatures that rarely come ashore. They only do so during the breeding season and can travel long distances to forage and nest.
Leatherback turtles are primarily carnivorous, feeding mainly on jellyfish. They are known to eat other types of marine invertebrates as well, such as squid and crustaceans, but prefer jellyfish above all else. This feeding behavior qualifies them as nearly invaluable marine predators capable of keeping the jellyfish population under control. Jellyfish are known to be extremely destructive due to their poisonous nature and ability to multiply fast and kill other animals, many of which they can’t even eat.
Leatherback turtles are known to dive to incredible depths of up to 4,000 feet, which is deeper than any other air-breathing animal. They are also known to travel long distances during their migrations and to be able to tolerate vastly lower temperatures than other turtles.
Can You Keep a Leatherback Turtle as a Pet?
It is both illegal and nearly impossible to keep a Leatherback turtle as a pet, no matter where you reside.
The main problem you’re having is replicating the animal’s natural conditions in captivity, which isn’t one you’re likely to overcome anytime soon.
Then you have the fact that this species can weigh in excess of 1,300 pounds. And the fact that it is forbidden by law to have one as a pet. You do the math.
5. Loggerhead Turtle (Caretta Caretta)
Loggerhead turtles are typically widespread in most temperate and tropical waters around the world.
They are named for their large, plate-covered head, which they often use as a deadly hunting tool.
Loggerhead turtles thrive in temperate and tropical waters all around the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. They are also known to travel long distances to forage and nest, which is typical behavior for most marine turtles. Loggerhead turtles are typically known for their preference for nesting on sandy beaches, with the female laying and burying its eggs in clutches on the shore.
Loggerhead turtles are a medium-sized sea turtle species, with adults reaching up to 3 in length and weighing up to 375 pounds or more, depending on the specimen. They have a distinctive large head with a strong, powerful jaw, which they use to catch, crush, and feed on hard-shelled prey.
The Loggerhead turtle’s carapace is brownish-red in color, although some may appear darker, while the flippers are paddle-shaped, typical for an aquatic species.
Loggerhead turtles hunt, rest, and live in the water for most of their lives, only coming to shore for breeding purposes. They are fully adapted to an aquatic lifestyle, so they have no use for land exploration, especially since they move slowly and sluggishly on the shore.
Loggerhead turtles are carnivores, with their diet consisting mainly of hard-shelled prey such as crabs, lobsters, and sea urchins. The turtle can use its hard head to smash stubborn shells and use their jaws to finish the job. This is a specialized hunter and eater with a well-defined spot in its ecosystem.
Loggerhead turtles are known for their tendency to travel long distances during their migrations, which is not always for breeding purposes. They may simply be exploring their vast territory for food and for mating-related interactions with turtles of the opposite sex.
They are also known to become vocal when necessary, including during feeding, protecting their territory, mating, or expressing fear or dominance. Like other sea turtle species, Loggerhead turtles are vulnerable to human activities such as habitat destruction, fragmentation, and pollution; despite that, their population is stable for the time being.
Can You Keep a Loggerhead Turtle as a Pet?
No, you cannot have a loggerhead as a pet for both legal and lifestyle reasons.
Loggerheads require large amounts of space to move around and explore their habitat freely and engage in their natural behaviors.
You cannot replicate these conditions in captivity, which can stress out the turtle, causing a significant decrease in life quality and lifespan.
6. Olive Ridley Turtle (Lepidochelys Olivacea)
The Olive Ridley turtle is among the smallest sea turtle species found in most warm and tropical waters around the world.
They are named for their olive-green colored shell, which is distinctive from those of other sea turtle species.
Olive Ridley turtles share the same space as all of the other marine turtles, with their favorite dwelling zones encompassing the Pacific, Indian, and Atlantic oceans. They can also migrate for breeding purposes and can cover impressive areas in search of food and mates.
Olive Ridley turtles are also known for their preference for nesting in large groups, called arribadas, on sandy shores, a behavior meant to increase the number of hatchlings that can reach adulthood.
Olive Ridley turtles are the smallest of the sea turtle species, with adults reaching up to 2.5 feet in length and weighing up to 110 pounds. They have a distinctive olive-green-colored shell and paddles for flippers, which is a trademark feature among all sea turtles.
Olive Ridley turtles are known for their highly arched carapace, especially near the nape, which is key to distinguishing them from other sea turtle species.
The turtle’s lifestyle is nearly identical to that of all other sea turtles. They live most of their lives in the ocean and only travel to shore to lay their eggs. These turtles often gather in large numbers on the shore, with females laying their eggs in communal nests to increase the number of eggs likely to hatch.
Olive Ridley turtles are omnivores and consume mostly marine vegetation, such as seagrass and algae, and small invertebrates like crabs and jellyfish. They can eat a variety of other foods, like shrimp, fish, mollusks, or lobsters, along with anything that holds any nutritional value.
Olive Ridley turtles are known for several unique behaviors, such as their preference for nesting in large groups on sandy beaches, their colorful vocalizations during the nesting process, and the tendency to form large feeding aggregations in the water.
These social behaviors have helped Ridley turtles to increase their survivability considerably in the wild, despite them still being affected by the numerous damaging human activities that we’ve already mentioned.
Can You Keep an Olive Ridley Turtle as a Pet?
You cannot, but you shouldn’t be surprised at this point. These turtles fall under the same umbrella that all other sea turtles find themselves under.
These turtles are protected by law and are unfit for life in captivity due to their behavior and lifestyle.
So, you can only admire them in the wild and hope you run across a breeding congregation during your strolls on the shore.
There you have it, 6 types of Australian turtles that you can also encounter in other areas of the globe. This is great if you think Australia is too far, which it normally is, no matter where you live.
However, keep in mind that many of these species only lay their eggs on Australian shores.
So, you might want to visit the island continent anyway if you think learning more about these turtles is worth the effort.