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Monday, March 5, 2012

Race to save the leatherback turtle

London (CNN) -- The leatherback turtle is one of the ocean's titans. The largest member of the turtle family, it is also one of the world's biggest reptiles, outsized only by some species of crocodile. Adults can weigh more than 900 kilograms and reach more than 2 meters in length, with the largest ever discovered measuring about 3 meters from bill to tail.

The species gets its name from its ridged, dotted carapace which, unlike other sea turtles, has the texture of hard rubber. Spending virtually its entire life at sea, the leatherback -- the only warm-blooded sea turtle -- is able to withstand colder waters than other species.

This has allowed it to become the most geographically dispersed reptile, spotted off the coasts of Newfoundland and Norway in the north, to New Zealand and the southern tip of Africa.

But despite its wide spread across the world's oceans, leatherback populations have plummeted in recent decades. The impact of commercial fishing, the poaching of their eggs and other hazards saw their numbers drop by an estimated 80% during the 1980s and 1990s, and today the species is classified as critically endangered. Read More