The turtle washed up near Ahakista. Pic: West Cork Times

AHAKISTA residents were surprised to find a rarely seen visitor to the southwest region washed up on a beach overlooking Dunmanus Bay last week.

 

The corpse, a very large Leatherback Turtle, was spotted on the beach by yacht master Chris Forker who lives in Ahakista.

“I spotted the turtle from the road as I was driving by. The turtle is 1.5metres long and approximately 1.2metres in width. It’s certainly the biggest Leatherback I’ve seen in this area,” Chris said.

 

Normally, the Leatherback turtle is much more at home in warmer waters further south but this year has seen a few sighting off the west coast as well as in the Irish Sea.

 

“I sent photos to Dr. Tom Doyle at University College Cork (UCC) and he has asked me to send him some DNA samples.

 

“With this we hope to be able to find out where the turtle came from, how old it is and if it is male or female. These results should be available in a few weeks,” Chris continued.

 

Dr. Tom Doyle at the Coastal and Marine Research Centre at UCC has received the DNA samples sent by Chris and is very interested in finding out where this Leatherback came from.

 

“The Leatherback is no stranger to Irish waters. However, these amazing creatures are rarely seen as they can spend up to 60 minutes submerged.

 

“Every year there are only between five and 20 sighting around our coast, the Leatherback arrives in our waters each year searching for jellyfish having travelled thousands of miles from the warm waters of the tropics.

 

“They send all their time in the water when they are off our coast and are only found onshore if they die and are washed up.

 

“The Leatherback found in Dunmanus Bay is one of the largest we have seen at 1.5meters long. The largest Leatherback recorded in Irish waters was 1.61meters long,” Dr Doyle said.

 

If you see or find a Leatherback turtle in your area Dr Doyle would like to hear from. Contact the Coastal and Marine Research Centre at UCC on 021 470 3100.