Leatherback turtle found washed up in Essex

Turtle being recovered Image copyright South Woodham Coastguard Rescue Team
Image caption The turtle's body has been taken to the Natural History Museum for further investigation

A leatherback turtle weighing about a quarter of a tonne (250kg) has been found washed up near an Essex river.

A team from South Woodham coastguard found the body of the animal after getting calls from the public.

The animal has been taken to the Natural History Museum in London for examination and preservation.

South Woodham station officer Andrew Dale said: "At 1.7m (5ft 7in) long we have no record of such a sighting on the east coast before."

The turtle was found washed up in Mundon Creek, just off the River Blackwater, at about 15:00 GMT on Wednesday.

The team reported the find to the UK Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme (CSIP), which records the discovery of sea creatures such as whales, porpoises, dolphins and sharks.

'Very unusual'

A team from the coastguard, CSIP and nearby farm owners returned on Thursday to lift the turtle's body over the seawall.

A coastguard spokesman said seeing the species in waters near the Essex coastline was "very unusual".

"Leatherback turtles are a more common sight around the Cornish coast, for example, where the waters are warmer and deeper," he said.

"But we have never heard of one being found along the east coast."

Leatherback turtles are the largest variety of turtle, and are characterised by their lack of a hard shell. Fully grown adults can weigh up to 750kg (0.75 tonnes).

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