Rare leatherback turtle washes up in Denmark

For the third time in just over one month, an animal not normally found in this part of the world has shown up in Danish waters.

Rare leatherback turtle washes up in Denmark
Only four or five leatherback turtles have been spotted in Denmark in the past 100 years. Photo: US Fish and Wildlife Service/Flickr
An enormous leatherback turtle weighing several hundred kilos washed up on shore on the island of Lolland over the weekend. 
The leatherback sea turtle is the world’s largest marine turtle. Its global population is considered vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature but many subpopulations are critically endangered. According to the World Wildlife Fund, leatherbacks have been spotted as far north as the US state of Alaska and as far south as Africa’s Cape of Good Hope. It is extremely rare, however, to see one near Denmark.
“We have only seen four or five of them in Danish waters within the past 100 years,” biologist Tue Larsen told broadcaster DR. 
Larsen said that the cause of death of the turtle that washed up on Lolland is unknown and he plans to take the body to the Copenhagen Zoological Museum for further study. 
The curator of the Denmark’s national aquarium Den Blå Planet said it is hard to know why the leatherback turtle suddenly appeared in Denmark. 
“It could have been led off course by a warm current and after that it likely got lost,” Lars Skou Olsen told DR.
Olsen didn’t rule out however that rising sea temperatures could result in more of the massive turtles appearing in Danish waters. 
“Last year there an unusually large amount of sunfish came to Danish waters and that is attributed to the higher water temperatures,” he said. 
The leatherback turtle’s appearance comes shortly after a humpback whale was found washed up near Thy and bottlenose dolphins were reported in the Bay of Aarhus. Both species are incredibly rare in Danish waters.  

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Why 30 percent of Denmark could be left to nature

A Danish environmental organization has received a positive political response over a proposal to ensure 30 percent of Denmark be reserved for nature.

Why 30 percent of Denmark could be left to nature
Photo: Henning Bagger/Ritzau Scanpix

The Danish Society for Nature Conservation (Danmarks Naturfredningsforening, DN) wants the country’s nature to be written into law by way of an obligation to ensure 30 percent of Danish land to be nature reserve by 2031, DR reports.

The proposal was made as government politicians met at Marienborg, the official residence of the prime minister, on Monday for talks on biodiversity.

The concept of such a ‘biodiversity law’, which would place binding targets for Denmark on the area, was initially positively received.

The interest organization for the agriculture sector, the Danish Agriculture & Food Council, has said it also supports biodiversity goals, while environment minister Lea Wermelin said she would listen to suggestions regarding both targets and legislation.

“Fundamentally, the biggest task right now is to reverse nature’s decline and ensure that over 2,000 species threatened by extinction get a helping hand and the chance to remain in Denmark,” DN president Maria Reumert Gjerding said to DR.

“So it’s crucial that politicians make commitments to nature targets,” she added.

The Marienborg meeting is the beginning of government work to implement a ‘package’ of laws on nature and biodiversity, which the Social Democratic government promised prior to the June general election.

Wermelin said action must be taken to prevent Denmark from entering a “natural crisis”.

“We are genuinely interested in a new process to form a long-term plan for Denmark’s nature. Although reports paint a bleak picture, they also say it’s possible to set a new, green direction,” she added.

The minister welcomed “specific ideas and wishes” from environmental organizations that could help in making such a plan, DR reports.

Although only 0.4 percent of the area of Denmark is currently wild nature, DN says the target could be reached by buying or renting land from landowners and leaving it to nature, as well as by ensuring a specified amount of agricultural land actively benefits biodiversity.

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