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Leatherback Turtle Spotted in Loch Gairloch

A leatherback turtle was spotted by passenger Mike Cleavin when he took a two hour survey cruise with Gairloch Marine Life Centre & Cruises on Tuesday 14 August.  At first he thought it was a seal but as the animal swam closer to the boat the eleven passengers and marine biologist guide Ian French were able to clearly identify it as a leatherback turtle  measuring approximately 2 metres in length.

The leatherback is the largest of the marine turtles and gets its name from the black, leathery skin that covers its carapace (shell). They are unique amongst reptiles in that they have some internal control of their own body temperature, so can forage in temperatures lower than 5oC and can dive to depths of over 1km.  They are usually about 2m long and weighing around 600 kgs.

Five species of marine turtle have been recorded in UK and Irish waters.   Leatherbacks are the most commonly sighted marine turtle species in UK seas, usually seen during the summer, and are believed to migrate thousands of kilometres across the Atlantic Ocean to feed on our abundant jellyfish.

This sighting is only the 5th sighting of a leatherback this year in UK waters – records have been unusually scarce this year (although this may be due to less observations owing to the bad weather) – with only 2 live sightings in English waters, 1 live one in Scottish waters and 1 dead stranding in Scotland.

Gairloch Marine Life Centre & Cruises have been operating survey cruises since 1989 and this is the first time a leatherback turtle has been recorded.

To report turtle sightings in Scottish waters visit www.euroturtle.org/turtlecode or call SNH at 0131 447 4784.

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