The Serai Blog

Facts about Leatherback Turtles

1. Leatherbacks are known to have existed in some form since turtles evolved 110 million years ago. The leatherback sea turtle, sometimes called the lute turtle or leathery turtle is the largest among all the sea turtle species, growing up to 170 cm in length and weighing up to 500kg,


2. Leatherbacks get their name from the their unique shell, which is composed of a layer of thin, tough, rubbery skin strengthened by thousands of tiny bone plates that make it appear leathery.


3. Leatherback turtles are one of the deepest-diving marine animals. Individuals have been recorded diving to depths as great as 1,280 m (4,200 ft).


4. They are also the fastest-moving reptiles. The 1992 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records lists the leatherback turtle moving at 35.28 km/h (21.92 mph) in the water.


5. In India, they are found in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, mainly the Great Nicobar Island. The main nesting sites are Galathea on the east coast and several beaches on the west coast of Great Nicobar.



6. Leatherbacks usually nest once in every 2 to 3 years, though there have been reports of them nesting annually. A female may nest between 6 to 9 times per season, with an average gap of 10 days between nestings. A clutch consists of an average of 80 fertilised eggs, which are covered with a layer of about 30 smaller, unfertilised eggs in each nest.


7. Incubation takes about 65 days. Eggs measure about 5 cm in diameter.

While nesting beaches have been identified in the region, leatherback populations in the Indian Ocean remain generally unassessed and unevaluated.



Turtles used to nest in Neil’s cove earlier, but have stopped/ reduced as the sand is eaten away by the sea resulting in a steep incline for the turtles to climb

Unlike other sea turtle species, leatherback females may change nesting beaches, though they tend to stay in the same region



9. Leatherbacks are listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN. The greatest threat to the species has been to the eggs, which remains as much of a threat today.

10. The species has rarely been hunted for its meat. Scientists suggest that gill-net and longline fisheries are also a growing threat to the species



Leatherbacks migrate thousands of miles to eat jellyfish. One cause for their endangered state is plastic bags floating in the ocean. Leatherback sea turtles mistake these plastic bags for jellyfish; an estimated one-third of adults have ingested plastic. Plastic enters the oceans along the coast of urban areas, where leatherbacks forage, with humans using upward of 50 billion plastic bags every year. Several species of sea turtles commonly ingest plastic marine debris, and even small quantities of debris can kill sea turtles by obstructing their digestive tracts. Turtles have the highest risk of encountering and ingesting plastic bags offshore.

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