The leatherback turtle is one of the most unique sea turtles; it's almost completely pelagic, migrates impossible distances and is the largest turtle in the world. And it's disappearing. The Endangered Species Act has put the Leatherback on the map, but the road to recovery is uncertain for this gentle giant. The plan covers the breeding populations within the US, and parts of Mexico, but most of the Central America, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Island populations are struggling and close to extinction (Eckert, Bjornda 2001). Threatened by habitat encroachment, pollution, commercial fishing, and indigenous take, the leatherback turtle's populations have plummeted by 80% in the past 20 years (Eckert, Bjornda 2001). Only international cooperation and research will ultimately save this species, but time is running out. Can it be done? The leatherback is a K-selected species; females only mate every 4-6 years, and sexual maturity isn't reached until 10 years of age (Eckert, Bjornda 2001) . Human disturbances on key nesting sites have prevented females from depositing eggs on the beaches- beachside bars, pets and people create a stressful environment, and females frequently return to sea, their bodies reabsorbing the eggs, preparing to wait another 4-6 years for another reproductive event (Eckert, Bjornda 2001). Another hazard facing hatching leatherback turtles is light pollution; the hatchlings rely heavily on light cues to make the long and dangerous trek from nest to sea. Lighting from homes, parking lots, and restaurants confuse the baby turtles, and instead of emerging from the sand under the cover of nigh to disappear into the waves, they will dig out in the middle of the day, succumbing to the heat of the sun and the predation of fierce shorebirds. While the incidental take of leatherback turtles does occur during commercial fishing, more important is the intentional take of their eggs. Throughout Central America and Asia, turtle...
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