During Summer, leatherback sea turtles are on the beach at Numero Uno Beach House in San Juan! The leatherback is the largest turtle in the world. NOAA tells us that an adult leatherback turtle ranges from 5-6 feet in length and 750-1,000 pounds.
Part of what makes this turtle unique is its body. No other species of sea turtle lacks a hard shell and scales. They’re known for their smooth, leathery skin and their ability to dive much greater depths than other species.
Still going strong
Here’s a fun fact: the leatherback turtle survived the extinction of the dinosaurs! They’ve been around for more than 150 million years and are the only living member of the family Dermochelyidea. Unfortunately, the species is currently listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act due to human interaction.
7 quillas is a dedicated non-profit organization helping leatherbacks find their way safely to the ocean in the Ocean Park area in San Juan. They secure the nests, observe the hatching and release the baby turtles at sunset so they can have the best chance of survival. To support them, please stop by our shop to purchase a 7- quillas T-shirt.
What leatherback turtles eat
Despite its large size, the leatherback turtle has a delicate jaw. In turn, their diet consists of low-protein invertebrates like jellyfish, seaweed, fish, and crustaceans. According to SEE Turtles, leatherbacks can consume nearly 73% of their body weight in prey every day.
Turtle nesting in Ocean Park, Puerto Rico
Leatherbacks typically nest every few years, though it’s not uncommon for them to nest every year. Per the Sea Turtle Conservatory, female leatherbacks lay an average of 100 eggs in each nest. The fertilized eggs are the size of billiard balls, while the unfertilized eggs are much smaller.
In contrast to other species of sea turtles, leatherback females may change where they nest. However, most tend to stay in the same area for their nesting. Presently there are about eight leatherback turtle nests on the beach in San Juan’s Ocean Park, near our Beach House and Bar.
Where else are these turtles found?
Leatherbacks are the most widely distributed sea turtle. You can spot them throughout the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. They’re found as far north as Alaska and as far south as the southern edge of Africa. In Puerto Rico, leatherback turtles nest in San Juan’s Ocean Park neighborhood.
These creatures are also the only reptile known to be active in water below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Of course, leatherbacks wouldn’t be able to thrive in such different environments without their one-of-a-kind body shape and powerful flippers. This combination allows them to swim thousands of miles over bodies of water and fast currents.
Significant threats to the leatherback population
Habitat loss, wildlife trade, incidental capture, collection of eggs and meat for consumption, climate change, and pollution contribute to the decline of leatherback turtles. The Pacific population alone has decreased by over 90% since 2000 due to these factors. Additionally, many leatherbacks that remain today mistake plastic bags and balloons for jellyfish.
Numero Uno has been working with the 7Quillas San Juan Sea Turtle Conservancy Group to protect and conserve leatherback turtle nesting habitat since 2019. 7Quillas has trained our staff for three years in a row to be prepared for turtle sightings and hatchings. The Beach House has strived to contribute to improving the area, including changing lighting on the beach to avoid disorientation during nesting season.
At Numero Uno Beach House, we cherish the opportunity for our guests to see leatherback turtles in person. We encourage you to check out one of the world’s most amazing reptiles as you enjoy your meal or cocktail. We only ask that you stay mindful of this endangered species and that protecting their home is paramount.