Meet the Animals

Leatherback turtle


Where & when to see them

  • Best seen during the summer months of August and September off the south and west coasts of Britain and Ireland.
  • They have also been spotted off the coasts of Shetland and north east Scotland and Humberside in England.

More about this species

Simon has moved to the Welsh coast. Will he be able to catch a glimpse of this monster of the deep?

Species information

This massive marine reptile, weighing around 600kg and with a shell up to two metres long, is the largest and most widely distributed turtle in the world. The shell is flexible and covered in a black leathery skin (hence the name leatherback) with seven ridges running the length of the back. Also worth noting are the large front flippers, and the dark colour with white and pink spots.

Leatherback turtles undertake an enormous migration from the temperate feeding waters to the tropical breeding waters, a journey of over 7,000km. These turtles are increasingly spending time around the coast of Britain because of warming water temperatures and the swarms of jellyfish they prey on.

Unusually leatherback turtles are warm-blooded. Most reptiles are cold-blooded. The sex of the young is influenced by the incubation temperature, with cooler nests hatching males and warmer nests hatching females. Leatherhead turtles are critically endangered and heavily protected by law.

How to help

You can report any turtle encounters with the Marine Conservation Society.

More Springwatch animals:

Go to a list of all the Springwatch animals

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