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.