Reaching an impressive weight of 900 kilograms, the leatherback turtle is the fastest swimming of the seven extant sea turtle species in the world. An enigmatic marine creature, shunning humans’ curious observations, it deserves a spot in the limelight as our Wildlife of the Week:

Species: Dermochelys coriacea

Class: Reptilia

Status: (IUCN) Vulnerable

Diet: Soft-bodied animals like squids, but mostly jellyfish

Size: Up to two metres

Behaviour: Little is known about their underwater lifestyle, apart from their feeding habits, mating and nesting habits. Leatherback turtles are known to spend extended periods of time in cold northern waters

Distribution: Worldwide

Ecosystem: Leatherback turtles are not known to nest at specific beaches, but they will return to the same region. It is suspected that beach erosion and human intrusion is affecting the locations of nesting habitats

5 Fast Facts:

  • After hatching from their eggs, the baby male leatherback turtles return to the sea and may never see land again throughout their lifespan of 80 years
  • Out of the sea turtle species, leatherbacks make the longest migration, an average of about 6,000 kilometres
  • Leatherbacks have been recorded diving to a depth of 1,270 metres and can remain submerged for up to 85 minutes
  • Leatherback turtles reach sexual maturity between six and 10 years old, and they will make repeated visits to the same spot during the night to lay eggs over 10 days
  • Leatherback turtle eggs are used in traditional Asian medicine, and the eggs are also an important part of local diets in some parts of the tropical world. The turtles are hunted for their shells and other parts used in jewellery and bags