2.5m leatherback turtle washes up dead on Mermaid Beach on the Gold Coast 

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Endangered 2.5m leatherback turtle weighing 500kgs washes up dead on an Australian beach for the first time in 16 years

  • The male turtle was found on Mermaid Beach on the Gold Coast on Wednesday
  • The endangered species is believed to be aged between 30 and 50 years old
  • Marine scientists said it’s ‘extremely uncommon’ for them to wash up on shore 
  • It is believed the leatherback turtle was caught in shark nets a few days earlier 

A giant 2.5m leatherback turtle weighing almost 500kg has washed up dead on a Gold Coast beach. 

The male turtle, believed to be aged between 30 and 50 years old, was found on Mermaid Beach about 5.30pm on Wednesday.

Marine scientist Siobhan Houlihan from Sea World, said the leatherback turtle may be the same one that was caught in shark nets a few days earlier. 

The male turtle (pictured), believed to be aged between 30 and 50 years old, was found on Mermaid Beach on Wednesday about 5.30pm

The male turtle (pictured), believed to be aged between 30 and 50 years old, was found on Mermaid Beach on Wednesday about 5.30pm 

Marine scientist Siobhan Houlihan from Sea World, said the leatherback turtle may be the same one that was caught in shark nets a few days earlier

Marine scientist Siobhan Houlihan from Sea World, said the leatherback turtle may be the same one that was caught in shark nets a few days earlier

Marine scientist Siobhan Houlihan from Sea World, said the leatherback turtle may be the same one that was caught in shark nets a few days earlier 

She said it was ‘extremely uncommon’ for the endangered species to wash up on the beach as they’re usually far from the shore. 

‘They are found in our waters, but they’re normally far off shore,’ Ms Houlihan told ABC

‘The last time this happened was about 16 years ago, and the last time we’ve seen one nest in Australia was 1996.

‘They follow jellies around because they’re their main food source, which is probably why it was around here.’ 

Ms Houlihan said there was a small injury on the left flipper but no ‘obvious’ signs of injury. 

She explained they won’t know much more until they perform the necropsy and find out the cause of death.

Council workers used a bobcat to remove the turtle before it was transported to Brisbane for further investigation.  

Marine Biologist and conservationist Holly Richmond, took to Instagram to share the devastating news, calling for more care of the endangered species

Marine Biologist and conservationist Holly Richmond, took to Instagram to share the devastating news, calling for more care of the endangered species

Marine Biologist and conservationist Holly Richmond, took to Instagram to share the devastating news, calling for more care of the endangered species

'This species is incredibly rare to encounter as they are listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List,' Ms Richmond wrote

'This species is incredibly rare to encounter as they are listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List,' Ms Richmond wrote

‘This species is incredibly rare to encounter as they are listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List,’ Ms Richmond wrote

Marine Biologist and conservationist Holly Richmond, took to Instagram to share the devastating news, calling for more care of the endangered species.  

‘Laying dead in front of me is the largest species of sea turtle in the world, a Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea),’ she wrote.  

‘This species is incredibly rare to encounter as they are listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List.’ 

She noted the injury on the turtle’s left flipper and suggested it could have been from some rope in the water. 

Ms Richmond also revealed that a similar situation occurred in 2018 when another leatherback turtle was caught in shark nets at Shelly’s Beach in NSW. 

‘Two days later the same individual washed ashore deceased at Yamba NSW. The sea turtle had net markings around the flippers.’     

Leatherback Turtles 

Leatherback are the largest sea turtles on Earth. 

They can be found in the tropic and temperate waters of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans, as well as the Mediterranean Sea.

It is estimated that only about one in a thousand leatherback hatchlings survive to adulthood. 

The leatherback population is unfortunately rapidly declining in many parts of the world due to human activity.  

Their eggs often stolen by humans who consume them for subsistence or aphrodisiacs. 

Leatherback turtles also fall victim to shark nets, fishing lines or are struck by boats. 

They could also die from consuming plastic in the water which they mistake for jellyfish. 

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed the leatherbacks as an endangered species and vulnerable.

The population in the Pacific and Southwest Atlantic are unfortunately critically endangered.   

Source: National Geographic 



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