|Endangered Species: Sea Turtle
A Christiansburg Elementary Project
Submitted by Sean
Christiansburg Elementary School, Christiansburg, U.S.A.
Photography courtesy of Virginia's Endangered Species
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.
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.
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.
Wildlife Service and NMFS/ 1992/ "The Leatherback
to Reptile page.
If you would like to add to these Endangered Species
pages then email your contributions to Christiansburg
© copyright 1997
Last updated on March 12, 1998