Scientific name: Dermochelys coriacea
Classification: Critically Endangered
No.’s left in the wild: Unknown
Original habitat: Tropical and temperate oceans
The leatherback turtle is the largest of all living sea turtles and derives its name from its unusual shell, which is embedded with minuscule bony plates in a tough, rubbery skin. Black with light-coloured spots and a unique pale pink ‘fingerprint’ marking on the top of its head, the leatherback can grow up to 1.75m in length, weigh as much as 700kg (1500lb) and can grow flippers up to 2.7meters (9ft).
These noble creatures range across the temperate to tropical zones of the world’s oceans. It is reputed that they can live for 100 years and they are known to travel thousands of kilometers to tropical nesting beaches year after year.
They are on the brink of extinction due to a number of threats not the least of which are egg harvesting, the commercial development of nesting beaches, exploitation for their meat and being caught in fishing nets. Marine litter is also an increasing problem, as turtles will mistakenly consume plastic bags for jellyfish, their primary food source.