Dermochelys Coriacea = critically endangered
The Leatherback sea turtle are classified as critically endangered. The exact number of Leatherback turtles is impossible to know. The fact that the male turtles never return to land, makes it impossible to count them. At the moment it’s estimated that there’s only 35.000 nesting females.
To avoid not break as they fall down to the chamber, the eggs have a rubbery shell, which helps to keep them from breaking as they fall into the chamber on top of one another. After hatching the small baby turtles are easy prey for many predators. As long as they stay on the beach they’re prey for gulls, hawks, ghost crabs, vultures etc. Once they are in the ocean, the turtles become potential prey for octopi, sharks, and other large fish. If the Leatherback hatchlings emerge from a nest that is located on a beach that includes or is near a developed area, such as a resort, they may find that the brightest spot on the horizon is not the sea, but rather the light coming from the development. This causes the hatchlings to become disoriented and to head away from the ocean instead of toward it, increasing their risk of predation and dehydration before successfully reaching water.
Predators of the Leatherback
The greatest predator of the Leatherback, however, is people. In some countries, humans kill nesting female turtles and harvest Leatherback eggs to eat. Because the turtles leave a trail to their nests when they make their way back to the water, the nests are easy for egg poachers to locate. Not only killer whales and sharks are the reasons when you see a turtle who has lost a flipper or are injured. Entanglement in fishing gear can result in serious injuries to the turtles, including severe cuts and necrosis or in worst case death. Entanglement can also lead to death by drowning. Sometimes Leatherbacks has the size and power to swim to the surface of the water, when it’s trapped in fishing lines and gear, where they are discovered and released. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
Polution are killing
Leatherbacks are also at risk from garbage and other pollution in the sea. Eating or becoming entangled in plastic from sheeting, bags, deflated balloons, discarded fishing lines and more has been the reason for the death of many Leatherback sea turtles. It’s believed by many that the Leatherbacks mistake the floating plastic for jellyfish and eat it..
Leatherback | Conservation measures
The fact that the Leatherback never has developed the ability to swim backwards, poses some difficulty when the animal encounters fishing nets and lines in the ocean because it has no hope of backing out of them.
Not able to raise in captivity
It also poses a major difficulty to scientists attempting to raise Leatherbacks in captivity. In fact, Leatherbacks have never been successfully raised to maturity in captivity. Leatherbacks kept in a tank continually propel themselves against the sides of the aquarium as they ceaselessly swim forward. They inevitably damage themselves in the process and develop lethal fungal infections as a result.
Not being able to raise Leatherbacks in captivity means that scientists cannot observe captive specimens to determine how quickly they grow or how long they live. It also means that a “head-start” program cannot supplement Leatherback conservation efforts. A head-start program would keep hatchling Leatherbacks in captivity until they grew to a size that makes them less vulnerable to predators.
The primary step in conserving Leatherback turtles is to implement strict ban on seashore mechanized fishing and in areas of high sea turtle concentration. The Government should declare the coastal region a marine sanctuary or a no-fishing zone. Turtle Excluder Devices (TED) should be employed in trawl nets and made mandatory for trawlers operating in the coastal waters beyond a specific distance from the coast line. TEDs are basically trapdoors which can be connected to trawl nets that allow large animals like sea turtles to break away from the net without major loss of fish catch. However, use of TED alone will not bring down the turtle mortality because turtles are also caught and killed in gill nets and TEDs cannot be used in gill nets. So, strict implementation of the existing law on no fishing zones and the use of TED in other fishing zones appear to be the best response to bring down turtle mortality.
A major step towards saving this population would be giving confined area status to the sea turtle nesting beaches as well as the coastal waters having high sea turtle concentration. It is necessary to protect these areas so that the state Forest Department has jurisdiction over these nesting beaches and can provide protection for adults and hatchlings. On the other hand, it would be a mistake to completely exclude local people from the protection scheme.
In most of the coastal regions, turtles use more than one rookery during a season. This implies that the turtles nesting off the coast may be part of a single population, meaning that turtle nesting at all three rookeries are equally important. Further, if the nesting beach at continues to decline due to geographical factors, these turtles may nest at the other rookeries and it is important that these alternate nesting beaches are ‘turtle friendly’. Thus, the protection of all these three rookeries is extremely crucial for the survival of turtles. The introduction of controlled lighting in coastal areas would greatly reduce hatchling mortality.
These steps would radically lessen mortality of turtles on the coast in the near future. However, the key to long-term saving of the Leatherback is the mobilizing of the local community to participate in this setup which will create awareness among the local community for sea turtle conservation where they would be able to attain jobs, it will yield better results.