The Leatherback turtle is the only native species of turtle in the UK. They are particularly hardy and cold-tolerant, meaning they can cope with our freezing cold waters far better than other species! This is thanks to a thick, insulating layer of fat, and a counter-current heat exchange system which keeps heat in the core of the body, and minimises heat loss from the extremities.
Leatherback turtles can be found off our coasts in the summer when jellyfish numbers are high, as this is their favourite food, with August and September being the best months to spot them. Although they come here to feed, they do not breed in the UK, so you will only find them in the water rather than on the beaches.
Unfortunately Leatherback turtles globally face a number of threats such as fishing, egg poaching, and loss of breeding habitat. Pollution and litter are also incredibly dangerous for them, with plastic pollution in the sea often causing injuries and fatalities. Plastic bags are particularly problematic as they are easily mistaken for jellyfish when floating in the water, and eating them can be fatal.
Read our Croaking Science article related to this species: Should we count marine turtles as members of the British fauna?