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Scuba diver melts after friendly wild sea turtle captures her heart

Kristy is a seasoned diver who has a special fondness for sea turtles. She's watched giant loggerheads nest in the sand in Costa Rica, been approached by amorous underwater loggerheads in Mexico, been in the middle of groups of feeding green turtles, and she's had a cheeky one try to bite her camera in Belize. But this Hawksbill turtle in Papua New Guinea completely captured her heart when it swam down from the surface to meet her and another diver on the reef below. This young female Hawksbill was cruising around the coral head that had formed on a volcanic pillar far out at sea. She was searching for a specific yellow sponge that is her preferred food and she saw that Kristy was interested in something on the reef as well. This turtle has come to trust the divers who come here and she is not as shy as most wild Hawksbill sea turtles are. They could see that the turtle was having trouble finding her sponges and they decided to help. Recognizing that these humans could be won over with ease, she began trying to get at the sponges beneath the rock in front of them. They understood and began prying a few pieces out from between the rocks and coral. She was like a hungry puppy as she approached Kristy and ate out of her hand with complete trust. Kristy was in heaven during this encounter, holding the sponge so that the turtle could bite off manageable chunks. After a few minutes of interaction, Kristy moved on but her joy was obvious as she said goodbye to her new friend. Hawksbill sea turtles have one of the most beautiful and sought after shells of all sea turtles. Hunted for meat and for their shells, they were near extinction until hunting them was banned and the sale and export of turtle shells was outlawed. Although they are still critically endangered, this change has given them the chance to one day recover their numbers. Another positive change is the growing understanding that tourism will suffer as opportunities to see such beautiful creatures in their natural habitat decreases. These animals are worth far more alive than they are as food because tourism brings much needed income to the countries where they live. It is obvious how much joy comes from a few close up moments with a sea turtle, or any other reef creature.

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