This souvenir sheet of four 110 XPF stamps, designed by Jean-Richard Lisiak and offset printed using a spot gloss varnish, illustrates the four sea turtle species found in New Caledonia.
These long-distance navigators, all protected under New Caledonian regulations, are equally at home in the open ocean during the migration season, on New Caledonia’s beaches in the nesting season or amongst coral reefs or seagrass beds when they need to hide and/or feed.
Hawksbill sea turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) are recognisable by their heart-shaped shell, formed by overlapping brown scutes (scales). The hawksbill is a small, agile turtle with a distinctive raptor-like “beak” perfectly suited for tearing the corals, sea urchins and crabs on which it feeds.
Loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta) have a reddish-brown shell or carapace and the plastron (underbelly) is pale yellow. This carnivorous species is particularly fond of molluscs, shellfish and fish and regularly nests on Roche Percée beach near Bourail.
Green turtles (Chelonia mydas), the speediest sea turtle species, are herbivores. They are easily recognised by their olive-brown carapace and single pair of vertical prefrontal scales (scales in front of the eyes). They also come to nest and lay their eggs on some of the islets around New Caledonia.
Finally, leatherback sea turtles (Dermochelys coriacea), the largest marine turtles, are distinguished from other sea turtles by their lack of a bony shell. Instead, their carapace is covered by leathery skin, dark with white spots. Their primary habitat is the open ocean but they are also found close to New Caledonia’s coasts, where they feed on squid and jellyfish.