Turtles are beautiful creatures. Their big, wise eyes and gorgeous shell patterns have mesmerized humans for ages.
These mysterious reptiles naturally pique our curiosity— so when a giant female leatherback appeared on the shores of Trinidad and Tobago, bystanders were in for a special treat.
In the video, you see a massive leatherback turtle making its way across the shore.
Leatherbacks are the biggest turtles in the world, with adults reaching 7 feet in length and weighing up to 2,200 pounds. They’re the most prominent type of sea turtle in Trinidad and Tobago, with the area housing the largest nesting population in the world. Leatherbacks from Africa, Canada, and the UK all travel to the Tobago shore to nest on the warm beaches.
Bystanders were in awe of the majestic creature, gathering to take photos as it waddled back into the surf.
People may assume this turtle’s a male simply from its large size— but, according to science, this “little” lady is most definitely a female.
Male leatherback turtles spend their entire lives in the water. Of the species, females are the only ones to ever come onto the land— and only after mating, so they can nest and lay their eggs on the shore.
An interesting difference between leatherbacks and other sea turtles lies in the composition of their shell. While the shells of most sea turtles are hard and bony, leatherbacks have rubbery, tough shells made of cartilage tissues.
Of all the sea turtles, leatherbacks have the widest distribution— from the tropical waters of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans, extending all the way to Alaska and New Zealand.
Unlike other reptiles, the bodies of leatherback turtles have characteristics that allow them to function in cold water temperatures. In addition to a large frame and thick layer of fat, leatherbacks are also equipped with a specialized blood vessel structure (called a countercurrent exchanger) which literally helps them stay warmer than the water they’re in.
As you can see in this video, leatherback turtles are downright mesmerizing.
Unfortunately, like most sea turtles, they’re currently at risk of extinction.
Back in 2013, researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham documented a 78% decline in the number of leatherback nests in the Pacific Ocean. The discovery prompted professor Thane Wibbels to state: “If the decline continues, within 20 years it will be difficult if not impossible for the leatherback to avoid extinction.”
“The leatherback is one of the most intriguing animals in nature, and we are watching it head towards extinction in front of our very eyes.”
Although these giant turtles don’t have to worry about sharks or other predators, only one or two leatherbacks eggs out of a thousand will survive into adulthood.
With such small numbers, it’s imperative to protect as many as possible.
If you’re interested in helping save the sea turtles, Oceana has listed a few tips:
- Minimize Beach Lighting And Bonfires: Hatchlings use the light of the moon to guide them to the ocean, and lights on the beach can disorient them.
- Pick Up Your Beach Garbage: Turtles often die after being entangled in plastic bags and garbage. Disposing of items properly can reduce this risk.
- Don’t Disturb Nesting Females: When frightened, females will sometimes return to the ocean without laying their eggs.
Watch the incredible video below.
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