Endangered Species: Sea Turtle

A Christiansburg Elementary Project
Submitted by Sean
Christiansburg Elementary School, Christiansburg, U.S.A.

Sea Turtle

Photography courtesy of Virginia's Endangered Species

Why Study This Topic? What Was Already Known Search for Information Description of Plant or Animal Habitat Requirements
Adaptations Reasons for Endangerment Restoration Actions What Was Learned Conclusions from Research

Why Study This Topic?

  In this report I would like to learn about the physical and the ecological facts and folklore of the leatherback sea turtles, and maybe some other species of sea turtles in the world. I am also trying to find out the reasons for their endangerment. There are many other questions that I would like to look up and answer in my report such as why the leatherbacks have almost a totally different shell than other species of sea turtles (the leatherbacks have one big plate that covers their whole backs. While other turtles have many sheltering plates that cover their backs).

 There were many reasons that I chose to write my report on the Leatherbacks. One of the reasons I chose it was the fact that I had a limited choice of what animals and plants to write my report on. Another reason was that the leatherbacks is not too easy, and it was also not too hard for me to find information that I needed for this report. Still, another reason that I became interested in them is because it is mostly humans fault that this species of sea turtles is endangered.

 Because of human growth along the beaches that they visit, the Leatherbacks nesting sites are dreadfully rare in a lot of places. Many other reasons the leatherbacks are endangered are because of human causes. That's why humans should and are blamed for the endangerment of the Leatherback Sea Turtle (and in the near or the far future, maybe extinction). If we make the leatherbacks unhealthy today, they will have unhealthy offspring. They too will have unhealthy offspring.

What Was Already Known

  I knew the Leatherback was a sea turtle that is usually known because of its endangerment. I knew all about what shell it has and how it is shaped. I also know that its shell is different than every other sea-turtle's shell around the world (known to man). I also knew that this species, like sea turtles, is especially killed crossing the beach for the first time when it goes to the ocean (Hatchlings that have just come out of their eggs in the nest must find the ocean). I also know a good deal on the other sea turtle species, because I did a report on the Green Sea Turtle earlier this year.

I also knew many reasons that other sea turtles are endangered because humans have ignored them, and eradicated them until only a few survive. I believe that humans have broken the sea turtles natural ecosystem, because people have killed too many sea turtles instead of letting nature take it's coarse. Even though there are so many groups trying to save the sea turtles, they are still being killed too much.

Search for Information

  I searched many places for the information that I found to write my report on. I think that the best resource that I looked through was the computer (I used the Internet to get web pages to summarize). One was about facts on the leatherback, and the other web page that I found was a rehabilitation page about the leatherbacks. I printed out those two sites' pages. Then I looked in the book called Endangered Species of Virginia. I photo copied a few pages out of that book on the Leatherbacks and placed them in with the rest of my information in my report folder to use later. Then I looked in my school library for a book on my subject. I found a book that was called Album of Snakes and Other Reptiles. These are the only resources that I am using other than what I already knew about sea turtles.

 I don't think I had any problems in trying to find information to write my report. I only had to look on the Internet and find a few books on the Leatherback Sea Turtles and print the pages out so that I could use them. Because I did a report on the Green Sea Turtle earlier this year, I felt well prepared to do this report.


  The leatherback can get up to 1,400 pounds. It is definitely the biggest sea turtle known to man. That makes it the largest and the easiest sea turtle to hunt, net, or possibly harpoon. Adults can reach up to 155 centimeters (four to eight feet) in length and have a four inch thick shell. The hatchlings are small compared to the adults (When I looked at a measurement chart with every species of sea turtle on it, the hatchling is the size of many of the smaller sea turtles). The hatchlings are 61.3 millimeters. Usually, they only weigh around 45.8 grams.

 The front two flippers can measure up to 270 centimeters in length (they are bigger than most other front flippers of sea turtles, because the leatherback is the biggest sea turtle in the world. Every species of sea turtle has front flippers larger than the back flippers. The back flippers are smaller than the front flippers, because the front flippers are used more than the back flippers. They are used more because the front flippers are used to swim at high speeds of 35 miles per hour (mph), and the back flippers are only used for steering through the water.

Habitat Requirements

  The Leatherbacks are an endangered species of Virginia, but they only are in the ocean waters and one the beaches in the summer months. They only stay in the warm waters in the world (they're cold blooded)and if the water doesn't become warm in Virginia in the summer time they will chose to stay south nearer to the equator. They will have a 90% chance of not coming to Virginia in ice or snow.

 They have to be in a habitat where their food is. There also has to be a supply of jellyfish in the area. So far, that is the only food they are known to eat . I have know idea why the jellyfish can't sting them, maybe its shell protects it. It didn't say anything about a shelter in my information that I'm using, but I assume the flora of the ocean offers the Leatherback protection.


  All animals have predators that hunt them. The Leatherbacks have three main enemies that my research uncovered. They are the killer whale, the shark, and the worst enemy of all, man. There are propably more predators out there, but these are the main three predators that scientists know about today. The killer whale and the shark think of them as snacks, but humans do worse harm. People use their oils, their shells, and even their skin to make cheap products to sell to someone else.

Reasons for Endangerment

  The erosion of beaches is also wiping out the population of the Leatherbacks. Erosion is the sand on th beach sliding over top of the eggs so it either crushes or buries the whole nest of eggs. Since the Leatherback has such a large size, it is caught in most all nets or the pollution that it encounters at sea. The biggest issue in the endangerment of the Leatherback Sea Turtle is propably the pollution that it encounters. A few sea turtles that have washed up on the beach, and have been reported to have swallowed plastics and other pollution they mistake for jellyfish.

 There are many places in the world where the population of the Leatherback has barely declined, and some places where it has declined drastically. Most of the population has declined around Malasia, India, Shri Lanka, Thailand, and even Tobago. In some places, the population of the Leatherback Sea Turtle has gone up a lot. One of these places is Surinam.

Restoration Actions

  There are many actions taken in order to save the Leatherback species of sea turtle. Both government and the non-goverment groups are fighting to help save their population. They are trying to convince the public that the population decline, and even their existence, is still important to today's ecocycle. Many people don't really care at about these turtles. They will certainly die out at their present rate of endangerment.

What Was Learned

  I have learned many facts in my report and many other things in my research. I have learned about the Leatherback Sea Turtles' shells, skin, and even other physical features such as their front and back fins. I have learned about their endangerment and their population decline over the years.

Conclusions From Research

  The Leatherback has been a neat animal to reseach and to write a report on. I learned there were more resources than I thought there were on the Leatherback Sea Turtle (even though I only used two web pages and some pages out of a book). I had some fun at least, and I also got better research skills. Another benefit of this project is that I kept up my 97% grade average of an "A".


  Terwilliger, Karen.1991. "Virginia's Endangered Species" Pages: 518-529.
National Marine Fisheries Service(NMFS). Jan.15,1996. "Leatherback Sea-Turtle"
Wildlife Service and NMFS/ 1992/ "The Leatherback Turtle"

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Christiansburg Elementary
Last updated on March 12, 1998