Pacific leatherback turtles are the largest in the world. They can grow up to 2,000 pounds and six feet long. They migrate from the West Coast of the United States each year to Indonesia, a journey of about 6,000 miles. This epic journey is one of the longest in Nature, and takes about seven months. These huge turtles can dive to 4,000 feet and live about 80 years. They eat scores of jellyfish every day and have been clocked at a top swimming speed of nearly 22 mph.
In the last 27 years, the number of western pacific leatherbacks has dropped by an estimated 78%. There are only about 500 of them left at their largest nesting site, Bird’s Head Peninsula on New Guinea. There used to thousands. These critically endangered sea dwellers are being killed by fisherman’s drift nets, and hooks from long lines. Their eggs are being eaten on beaches by feral pigs introduced by humans. Dogs also eat some of them, so the babies never have a chance to hatch and swim out to the sea. Local fisherman also kill turtles each year for meat and eat the eggs.
The atlantic leatherbacks have experienced something of a stabilization in their numbers due to various agreements to stop taking their eggs. Because of this qualified success, there still remains some hope similar arrangements can be made to stop the destruction of western pacific leatherbacks eggs as well.
Sometimes the media reports these kinds of stories by writing or saying the endangered species is ‘going extinct‘, as if the species themselves have something to do with their own dramatic decline. In this case, it is simply human behavior that has driven their numbers down to such a dangerous level.
Image Credit: Dtobias, Wiki Commons