August 13, 2010

Endangered Turtle Returns To Malaysia

After more than three decades away, an endangered leatherback turtle has returned to the beaches of Malaysia in what is being hailed by conservationists as a "miracle."

The "Puteri Rantau Abang" or Rantau Abang Princess turtle, which was identified by local experts due to distinctive markings on its shell and flipper, returned to the Rantau Abang beachfront in July. It is the first leatherback turtle to return to the northern state of Terengganu since the 1980s, according to a Friday article by French news agency AFP.

"It is a miracle that leatherback turtles are making a comeback to this area," Malaysian Fisheries Department director-general Ahamad Sabki Mahmood told The Star newspaper, adding that he hoped that more leatherback turtles would return during the next nesting period, which begins on Sunday and lasts until August 20.

According to the AFP, "The Puteri Rantau Abang, which was hatched in the area in 1978 and marked on its shell and left flipper, returned at a weight of 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds), measuring 1.5 meters (five feet) in length and 1.16 meters wide"¦ It was released back into the sea on Thursday, carrying a satellite transmitter which will help conservationists track turtle migration patterns."

The leatherback turtle, or Dermochelys coriacea, as it is scientifically known, is the largest of all currently living sea turtles and is the fourth-largest reptile in the world today. This critically endangered species is distinguishable from other sea turtles due to its lack of a bony carapace. Rather, its carapace is covered with thick, leathery skin and oily flesh.

They can reach sizes of more than six feet in length and typically weight between 500 and 1,500 pounds, though the largest ever discovered was a reported 10-feet in length and weighed in excess of 2,000 pounds. Furthermore, according to the 1992 Guinness Book of World Records, they are the quickest reptiles on the planet, reaching speeds in excess of 21 miles per hour when in the water.


Image Caption: Adult Dermochelys coriacea, Leatherback Sea Turtle. Credit: NOAA


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