Dead 500-Kilo Tropic Sea Turtle Found On German North Sea Coast

Marine biologists in Germany are baffled after fishermen hauled a dead 500-kilo tropical sea turtle from the mouth of a river in northern Germany.

The giant leatherback sea turtle measuring 190 centimetres (6.2 feet) in length and weighing 500 kilogrammes (79 stone) was salvaged from where the Elbe River debouches into the North Sea near the small town of Buesum, Dithmarschen District, Schleswig-Holstein State, on 4th September.

The giant leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) is the largest turtle species in the world. The Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans are its natural habitat.

It is listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Image shows the giant leatherback sea turtle found floating in the North Sea, near the town of Buesum, Germany, undated photo. The species is listed as ‘vulnerable’ on IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species. (Newsflash)

Captain Aljoscha Ubert of the Triton buoy tender vessel said: “We first tried to get it out of the water using a net but it turned out to be too small.”

Aljoscha told local media that the vessel crew had been forced to improvise. They eventually succeeded in using a large metal crate.

He admitted: “The crew were a bit shocked that the animal had ended up here. But we are satisfied with having handled the situation this way.“

The Triton crew heaved the leatherback on a forklift and took it to the Buesum Institute for Terrestrial and Aquatic Wildlife Research (ITAW).

Experts think that the turtle may have died weeks ago as its body was clearly injured and already decomposing. They deep-froze the animal for in-depth examinations.

ITAW expert Joseph Schnitzler said: “Once it is fully grown, this turtle species can cover long distances. They appear in the Polar Sea and the Atlantic as well as on the coast of Scotland.”

The scientist added: “Considering its size, this turtle is probably 15 years old. Giant leatherback sea turtles can reach an age of 45 to 50 years.

Image shows the giant leatherback sea turtle found floating in the North Sea, near the town of Buesum, Germany, undated photo. The species is listed as ‘vulnerable’ on IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species. (Newsflash)

“They are known for expansive searches for food. I assume it saw different parts of the world. But encountering such an animal here, at the North Sea, is an extraordinary occasion.”

The IATW expert said the turtle may have collided with a ship or gotten into its propeller. He explained: “It will be difficult to determine whether this was its cause of death. It could also have happened later.“

Prof Thorsten Reusch from the Geomar Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research in Kiel, Schleswig-Holstein, admitted: “In my 30 years of e experience as a marine biologist, I have never heard of such an animal on the German North Sea coast.”

Prof Reusch said: “It might have mistaken a plastic bag for jellyfish. Turtles are seriously affected by the plastic waste that pollutes the sea.”

The turtle will be dissected and examined at the Medical School of Hanover, Lower Saxony.

Several museums have already gotten in touch with the experts in Buesum to request the turtle’s remains once the scientific investigations are completed.

Marine biologist Thorsten Reusch, 58, poses in undated photo. The scientist from the Geomar Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research in Kiel said he has never seen such a find in his 30-year-long career. (Newsflash)

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Story By: Thomas HochwarterSub-Editor: Michael Leidig, Agency: Newsflash

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