Mid Wales

Plea to report 'leather sofa sized' turtle sightings

A leathback turtle
Image caption The endangered creature can weigh as much as a small car

People walking coastal paths in Wales are being urged to report sightings of endangered leatherback turtles.

The Marine Conservation Society said the animals looked like a "black leather sofa with spots on".

The appeal is part of an ongoing survey to identify "UK hotspots" for the animals, which can weigh as much as a small car.

Two of the five sightings in Britain this year were made off Ceredigion.

One turtle was spotted off Aberystwyth, in February, and a second was seen off the coast at Aberarth, near Aberaeron, in May.

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) has urged coastal path walkers and people in boats to look out for the turtles and report any sightings.

"Leatherbacks are amazing creatures, the biggest of the turtles, growing up to a couple of metres in length and weighing up to a tonne - about the same as small car," said Peter Richardson of MCS.

"This means that each year adult leatherbacks migrate from the tropics to UK seas, arriving in the summer just as our jellyfish start to gather in huge numbers.

"We encourage anyone who has spotted a turtle in UK waters, be it dead or alive, to report it immediately.

"The more UK turtle sightings we hear about, the better our understanding will be of these fascinating creatures, and the more we will know about how to make sure they are safe when they visit our seas."

The charity said the animals faced threats to their survival including habitat destruction and the disturbance of their tropical nesting beaches.

They can also get entangled and drown in fishing gear and die from starvation when they eat plastic litter, which they mistake for jellyfish.

Turtle encounters can be reported to MCS online at www.mcsuk.org and www.euroturtle.org/turtlecode

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