Yemeni Turtles & Tortoises [Archives:1997/51/Last Page]

December 22 1997

Turtles are considered to be the biggest kind of reptiles. They are well-known for their slow motion due to the abdominal and dorsal shells containing their bodies. They get adapted to living on land and in fresh and salty waters. Turtles and tortoises can be divided into 12 families, including 222 species. Four of these families, including 7 species, exist in Yemen. Turtles are given a great importance throughout the world because some of their species are on the verge of extinction. So the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) came into existence. While there are different species of turtles that are about to die out, many species can be found in Yemen and vice versa. Unfortunately, there are no real studies about turtles in Yemen to show their numbers and to what extent they are being hunted for some of their parts or for their eggs. There is no marked trade in Yemeni turtles, so it is possible to create suitable conditions in which they can live peacefully. People should be made aware of the need to leave the harmless turtles live freely in their environment. Turtles feed on seaweed, and plankton. Those which live on land feed on grasses, while the fresh water turtles feed on insects, frogs and small fish. Much efforts were made by Dr. Al Safadi and others to document the various species of turtle and tortoises living Yemen. Specimens of live and dead turtles and tortoises or even part of their bodies were collected by the researchers. There are 5 species of turtles in Yemen, which fall into two families. The first is the Cheloniidae family. The recorded species of this family are: 1- Chelonia mydas or green turtle; 2- Eretmochelys imbricata or Hawks Bill turtle; 3- Lepidochelys olivacea or Olive Ridely turtle; and 4- Caretta caretta or loggerhead turtle. The second family – Family Dermochelydae – includes the species Dermochelys Coriance or the leatherhead turtle. The first and second families are the most common families to be found in Yemen. Other families are less common. The second family of turtles includes the biggest kind of sea turtles. It is rarely found and it is said that they are used for some medical purposes. The third family, Family Pelomedusidae which includes the following species: 1. Palomedusa suburfa or Helmeted Terrapin: It is a kind of fresh water turtle which exists in rivers and springs.
Fourth, Family Testudinidae which includes Geochelone sulcata, or the African Spurred tortoise. It is the kind of a turtle which live on land. It different from other turtle families in that it is herbivorous. This kind is also rare in Yemen.