Did you know that the leatherback turtle is one of our native reptiles here in the United Kingdom? Even though this species does not come onto our shores, it is native to our waters. The leatherback turtle therefore does not breed here instead they breed in the tropics on much hotter beaches!
The main reason this species travels to our waters is because of the tasty jellyfish our seas have to offer – yum! You are most likely to see them off the west coast and particularly the northwest around the Scottish islands. Summertime is the prime time to see leatherback turtles with July, August and September being the best months. This is due to the high numbers of jellyfish at this time of the year.
Leatherback turtles are the largest sea turtles in the world! They can weigh up to 600kg and can be up to 2m long. They are dark in colour with white and pink spots. Females typically have a ‘pink spot’ on top of their heads. They are also very strong swimmers and can swim to depths of 1km, making them the deepest diving sea turtle!
Unfortunately, this amazing species is classified as ‘Vulnerable’ on the IUCN Red List. Threats to this species include fishing, predation by people such as egg harvesting, pollution, and litter. Plastic bags can look like jellyfish in the water and leatherback turtles will therefore eat them leading to suffocation.
For further reading on this species, read our Croaking Science article: ‘Should we count marine turtles as members of the British fauna?’