According to a new study published in Ecosphere, the scientific journal for the Ecological Society of America, leatherback turtles are likely to become extinct at some point in the following 20 years.
This is because the turtles' last stronghold in the Pacific Ocean, i.e. the Jamursba Medi Beach in Papua Barat, Indonesia, has witnessed a significant decline in the number of nests that these animals build in this location on a yearly basis.
More precisely, reports indicate that, back in 1984, a total of 14,455 leatherback turtle nests were found on this beach. On the other hand, only 1,532 were discovered at the Jamursba Medi Beach in 2011.
Given the fact that the turtles coming to nest in this part of Indonesia represent about 75% of the species' entire population, it comes as only natural that concerns are now being raised with respect to the possibility of their becoming extinct in the not so distant future.
According to the official website for the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Thane Wibbels, Ph. D., commented on these findings as follows:
“If the decline continues, within 20 years it will be difficult if not impossible for the leatherback to avoid extinction. That means the number of turtles would be so low that the species could not make a comeback.”
“The leatherback is one of the most intriguing animals in nature, and we are watching it head towards extinction in front of our eyes,” Thane Wibbels later added.
By the looks of it, leatherback turtles are threatened by both predators, which feast on their eggs and hatchlings, and global warming, meaning that increased average temperatures worldwide toy with the temperatures inside their nests and prevent the hatching of males.
Lastly, leatherback turtles can easily get caught up in nets, and very little can be done to protect them when swimming in the open ocean.
As researcher Ricardo Tapilatu puts it, “They can migrate more than 7,000 miles and travel through the territory of at least 20 countries, so this is a complex international problem. It is extremely difficult to comprehensively enforce fishing regulations throughout the Pacific.”