What it looks like: The Leatherback Turtle is the largest of all living sea turtles. It can weigh up to 500 kg and have a shell length of over one and a half metres. Its leathery shell has five longitudinal ridges and tapers to a point at the tail end. It is black with lighter spots. The shells of hatchlings are black with white markings on the ridges.
Where it lives: Rather than congregating around reefs or seagrass meadows, Leatherback Turtles take jellyfish and other marine macro-plankton from open ocean waters. There are few records on Leatherback Turtles nesting in Australia, and the time they spend in Northern Territory waters may be fleeting, as they prefer to feed in the temperate zone.
Importance as an indicator: Leatherback Turtle populations are a reflection of the fishing and hunting activities across their range, as well as predation levels at nesting sites, which are outside the Northern Territory. This species is particularly vulnerable to marine pollution, prone to mistaking plastic bags for jelly-fish.
Look after Leatherback Turtle and other sea turtles by cleaning up marine debris, particularly abandoned ghost nests, and prevent plastic bags from contributing to marine pollution. Take measures to prevent turtles ending their days as bycatch. On commercial fishing boats, fit appropriate turtle exclusion or bycatch reduction devices to fishing nets. Any hunting of turtles should be under a sustainable harvest plan.
Best Practice Management for Leatherback Turtle
* Limit harvest to sustainable levels * Reduce bycatch * Clean up ghost nets * Prevent marine pollution
- This profile from the Australian Government's Species Profile and Threats database (Department of Environment and Heritage) describes the conservation status and taxonomy of the Leatherback Turtle and provides a distribution map for the species, as well as access to relevant conservation plans
- A detailed & illustrated description of Leatherback Turtle, what it looks like, where it lives, its behaviour, its conservation status, threats it faces, recovery actions being taken, and what can be done to help this species. Links to additional information are provided.
- This profile describes the Conservation Status; Description; Distribution; Ecology; Conservation Assessment; and Conservation objectives and management priorities for the Leatherback Turtle in the NT, and provides a list of references (PDF file, 595 kB)
- This profile on the Australian Biological Resources Study Fauna Online Web Site, describes the Leatherback Turtle, its Taxonomy, Distribution and Ecology. A list of references is provided.
- This profile includes available information on classification, conservation status and distribution (including a distribution map), population, habitat and ecology, threats, conservation measures and utilization of the species of concern. They also provide lists of references for each species.
- A biological review of Australian marine turtle species. 6. Leatherback turtle, Dermochelys coriacea (Vandelli)Limpus, C. (2009) A biological review of Australian marine turtle species. 6. Leatherback turtle. The State of Queensland. Environmental Protection Agency.
- Detailed biological information for this species
- Chatto, R. and Baker, B (2008) The distribution and status of marine turtle nesting in the Northern Territory. Technical Report 77-208. Parks and Chatto, R. and Baker, B (2008) Parks and Wildlife Service, Department of Natural Resources, Environment, The Arts and Sport. This page contains a summary of the report. The report itself is available for download at the bottom of the page.