Leatherback Turtle - Dermochelys coriacea

Status: Vulnerable … Only about one in 1,000 Leatherback hatchlings make it to adulthood

Type: Reptile

Location: Found in all ocean basins and have been recorded at sea north of Norway and south of New Zealand. Important rookeries on the coasts of Central and South America, as well as West and South Africa. In summer, leatherbacks visit UK waters.

Size: Typically approximately 2m long and weighing 600 kgs

Habitat: Open ocean.


Main Threats:
One of the most important threats to leatherback turtles is accidental entanglement and drowning in fishing gear, especially long lines and drift nets. Leatherbacks are also sometimes killed by humans for their meat, oil and eggs in the tropical countries where they nest. Coastal development can affect important nesting habitats and has a large impact on local populations. Leatherback turtles are also threatened by marine pollution. They can mistake litter, such as plastic bags, for their jellyfish prey and can die as a result of gut blockage after eating it. Some dead stranded leatherbacks have been found to have almost 5 kg (11 lb) of plastic in their stomachs.

Climate change may also have a big impact on the leatherback and other turtle species - with rising surface temperatures likely to affect their future survival. The sex of hatchlings is determined by the temperature inside their nest. A mix of male and female hatchlings occurs when the nest temperature is approximately 29.5 degrees Celsius (85.1 degrees F). Higher nest temperatures will produce females and cooler temperatures will produce males. Rising surface temperatures may result in too many female hatchlings being produced and not enough males!

The sex of hatchlings is determined by the temperature inside the nest.


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