A live leatherback turtle was sent to National Taiwan Ocean University for medical treatment after being found stranded on New Taipei City beach yesterday, February 1.
Coast Guard personnel were dispatched to Fulong Beach in Gongliao District after National Coast Guard Administration received reports of a large sea turtle seen entangled in discarded fishing nets and stranded on the beach at around 10:00 am. Coast Guard officers found the animal to be a leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), a species listed as a category 1 protected species in Taiwan, and listed as “vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List.
The Ocean Conservation Administration Office of the Ocean Affairs Council said that the turtle was identified as a female with a carapace 139 centimeters long and 97 centimeters wide. The turtle had multiple cuts on its body, and personnel from the National Taiwan Ocean University Marine Ecology and Conservation Research Office transported it to the university in Keelung City to receive medical treatment. The turtle will be assessed before release back into the wild.
Marine ecologists said that the leatherback turtle is the largest sea turtle species in the world, with individual adults weighing 300-500 kilograms and growing up to two meters long. The leatherback turtle usually ranges in areas of deep ocean, rarely foraging in coastal waters. The only time they come close to shore is when females lay their eggs. Taiwan is not a spawning area for leatherback turtles, with the western Pacific population usually laying eggs on beaches in Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and Indonesia.
Only six stranded leatherback turtles have been found on Taiwan shores, and all were dead. The turtle found on Fulong Beach yesterday is the first recorded live stranding of a leatherback turtle in Taiwan.
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