There is good news if you live in Nova Scotia and have been wishing you could actually see the world’s largest living reptile. No need to go on a snake hunt in an Amazon rainforest or try to catch Australia’s saltwater crocodile basking in the sun. Right here at home - at the Northwest Arm in July, 2010 and in the Shubenacadie River this past August - there were news-making sightings of a reptile that can weigh up to 2000 pounds and grow to be eight feet long. It can also dive to depths of 4,200 feet and swim 9.8 metres a second. The highest Atlantic Ocean concentration of these friendly giants is here on the east coast of Canada, where they are tagged and monitored by Dalhousie University researchers. The greatest number of reported Atlantic Canada sightings has been in Halifax County.
Leatherback sea turtles have probably been travelling through NS and NFL waters for 100 million years. An abundance of large jelly fish in our waters makes this area the leatherbacks’ summer home of choice from early May through September every year. Our coastline dining room is crucial to the turtles’ survival. Unfortunately though, these waters also pose a danger to them because of their entanglements in fishing gear and the ingestion of flotsam that looks to them like jellyfish.
In some of its other habitats where turtles and their eggs are eaten and their skins and shells are used for commercially desirable human accessories, the species is being willfully imperilled by people, the only enemy. Globally, leatherbacks are critically endangered.
If we are lucky, we may be able to see a leatherback sea turtle swimming away this month as it embarks on its southern migration. If we are miraculously lucky, and people everywhere care enough to insure the safety of the habitats, the imminent extinction threatening this awe-inspiring species will be averted and the leatherbacks will continue to dine at our table for centuries to come.