NZ Fairy Tern Trust volunteer Reg Whale had a sad encounter when he did a trapping run on Te Arai beach on Monday morning, December 3.
Just north of Pacific Road, he found a dead turtle, which had been shot in the head.
“It looked like a leatherback and the Department of Conservation (DoC) officer who was with me estimated it had been dead for about three days,” Reg says.
“It was quite a shock to see an animal that doesn’t do anyone any harm, in that condition.”
DoC biodiversity ranger in Warkworth, Thelma Wilson, says it is likely the turtle was shot at sea and washed up with the high tides and easterlies.
“Leatherbacks are not unusual in waters off our coast, particularly during summer, but they are protected under the Wildlife Act.
“I’ve seen turtles that have drowned in nets and around craypots, but I’ve never seen a turtle that has been shot before.”
Thelma says leatherbacks can grow to well over two-metres long, so the one-metre turtle on Te Arai beach was probably not very old.
Leatherbacks are the largest turtles on Earth, can live for up to 50 years and are found worldwide. They are particularly susceptible to marine pollution such as balloons and plastic bags, which they mistake for jellyfish.