A massive 6ft leatherback turtle was discovered dead and tangled in creel ropes by a fisherman in Scotland.
The underwater giant, an incredibly rare sight in Scottish waters, is feared to have drowned off the north west coast of Scotland. A post mortem is due to be carried out later today.
The exotic species which has been about for more than a hundred million years nest in the Caribbean feeds off jellyfish and is classed as an endangered species.
The leatherback weighed a massive 380 kg and is estimated to be aged between 40 and 80- years old and was found dead on Wednesday by a local fisherman in Eddrachillis Bay near Drumbeg.
It was towed by the fisherman to Lochinver, in the north west of Scotland, to the amazement of locals who flocked to see one of the biggest turtles in the world.
It was kept in Lochinver Harbour under under cover until staff from the Scottish Agricultural College in Inverness picked it up yesterday.
“It looked out of this world,” said Highland Council Ranger Andy Summers who saw the leatherback when it arrived in Lochinver at about 6pm on Wednesday evening.
“A local fisherman bringing in his creels found it and got a shock. It was tangled up in the ropes.
“The weight of it must be huge. It was two meters, six and half feet long.”
The 53-year-old continued: “A lot of people came down to look at it, even Lochinver Primary School came to look at it.
“The Scottish Agricultural College in Inverness came down yesterday and picked it up.
“It was a bit smelly, we didn’t put it in the freezer but left it on the pad and the vet put it in the trailer the next day.”
He continued: “I’ve never seen anything like a leatherback’s mouth. It has backward pointing spines to stop the jellyfish getting back out.”
The last leatherback seen in the area was in 2003 and found dead onshore in Drumbeg. Mr Summers still has the skull of the turtle showing the usual arrangement of teeth.
Nick Davison, Strandings Coordinator for Scotland, who will be carrying out the postmortem later today, said a warm summer and large numbers of jellyfish in Scottish waters is most likely reason the massive turtle was in the north of Scotland.
“They come here for the summer to the tropics, the mid Atlantic. They nest in the Caribbean,” he said.
“This is quite a fresh one,” he continued. “A common cause of death, it is an accident, is their fore flippers get tangled in the lines and they drown.
“They are also very prone to digesting marine litter. Turtles aren’t the brightest things, they ingest plastic bags they think are jellyfish.”
Until the post mortem is carried out the cause of death is still uncertain, although drowning after becoming entangled in the creel ropes of the is the most likely cause Mr Davison said.
Leatherback turtles are one of the deepest-diving marine animals and have been recorded as diving to depths as great as 4,200 ft. Dive durations are between 3 and 8 minutes, with longer dives of 30–70 minutes occurring infrequently.