Leatherback turtle

Leatherback turtle returning to sea after nesting. French Guiana. rel=
Leatherback turtle returning to sea after nesting. French Guiana.
© WWF-Canon / Roger LeGUEN

Largest of all marine turtles

What
The Leatherback Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), named for its smooth, rubbery shell, is the largest living turtle, and is found in Pacific, Indian and Atlantic oceans, particularly in the tropical regions. It has inhabited the earth for over 65 million years but is now at the brink of extinction.

Why
Not only are they the biggest, leatherback turtles travel the furthest, dive the deepest and venture into the coldest waters compared to all other marine turtles.

If you really want to get a better idea of how far and deep they go, take a look at these tracking logs from our Marine Turtle Programme in South America...

About
They subsist on a diet of jellyfish, as well as other aquatic plants and animals. They can reach a shell length of 1.7m and a mass of 700kg.

Your chances of seeing one in the wild
Like many animals: if you're in the right place at the right time, chances are you can catch sight of them when they're laying their eggs (make sure if you're going to do this that you only go with responsible operators).

Leatherbacks are listed as 'Critically Endangered' in the World Conservation Union's (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

And - not unusually - human activities pose the biggest threat to these animals... getting caught in fishing nets, as well as ingesting plastic, rubber, tar, oil, and other synthetic materials can kill an adult Leatherback or severely injure it. Many have also been injured in collisions with boats, especially in shallower waters.
Jacques Fretey studying with Leatherback turtle eggs. WWF is working with partners in Guyana, ... / ©: WWF-Canon / Roger LeGUEN
Jacques Fretey studying with Leatherback turtle eggs. WWF is working with partners in Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana to ensure the long-term protection of shared sea turtle populations.
© WWF-Canon / Roger LeGUEN

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