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One of the world’s largest turtles just laid eggs on a North Carolina beach

One of the Earth's largest sea turtles laid eggs in this nest at Fort Fisher State Recreation Area in North Carolina between May 20, 2018 to May 23, 2018.
One of the Earth's largest sea turtles laid eggs in this nest at Fort Fisher State Recreation Area in North Carolina between May 20, 2018 to May 23, 2018. North Carolina State Parks and Recreation

It’s been six years since a female leatherback sea turtle has laid her eggs on or near a North Carolina beach.

Until now.

A female leatherback chose to build her nest at Fort Fisher State Recreation Area, North Carolina State Parks and Recreation announced Wednesday on Facebook.

She built the nest at the beginning of the week and laid her eggs, the park said Wednesday.

The turtle’s tracks can be seen on the beach near the nest, which the park has closed off to beachgoers. The park’s staff and sea turtle experts are protecting the nest from predators and beachgoers to ensure the hatchlings safely reach the ocean.

Leatherback sea turtles are the largest turtles in the world — they're capable of reaching over 2,000 pounds. Here's what brings them to the South Carolina coast, and some other quick facts about these gentle giants.

“Only about one in a thousand leatherback hatchlings survive to adulthood,” the post says.

“This is why it's crucial that we help give every one of these hatchlings the best possible chance at life! They are vulnerable to predators in the nest and also dehydration and disorientation during their journey from their nest to the water.”

The eggs are expected to hatch in about two months, but the chances of survival are tough.

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About 10 percent of the hatchlings are eaten by predators as they make their way to the ocean, NC State Parks said. Of those that make it to the ocean, only about 25 percent of them will survive the first days in the water.

The 2,000-pound turtle is the Earth’s largest turtle, sometimes measuring up to 7 feet, according to National Geographic.

The leatherback turtle is considered a vulnerable species, meaning they are at a high risk of extinction in the wild, according to Red List of Threatened Species. It’s estimated there are 100,000 female turtles in the world’s oceans, according to the American Museum of Natural History.

Like its name suggests, this turtle has a rubber-like bluish shell that is somewhat flexible. Leatherback sea turtles have the widest global distribution of any reptile, meaning can be found in almost any ocean and sea, tropical or sub arctic habitats, according to National Geographic.

This 275 lb. loggerhead turtle, was one of twelve released Wednesday, April 25, 2018 off Ocracoke Island, NC after being rehabilitated at the NC Aquaruim on Roanoke Island. The turtles were rehabilitated after being stunned by cold ocean waters.

Correction: The headline on an earlier version of this story inaccurately said the nest was in the Outer Banks.

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