Whether you’re a fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or not, there’s no excuse not to see the Turtles in their natural habitat. Turtles are one of the oldest creatures in the ocean and have lived on the land for 215 million years.
Giant tortoises found in South America and Africa are now very common in the United Kingdom. Six of the world’s seven species of sea turtles have been recorded in British waters, with Leatherback visiting the waters every summer to feed on jellyfish. Other species are often washed ashore or die on the shore in winter, and most often are young turtles lost in the cold waters of England.
Giant tortoises look exotic, but according to conservation groups, they visit our oceans often enough to be considered normal British animals. Leatherback turtle and turtle visits, usually associated with beaches in South America and Africa, are common enough to show that the waters around Britain are a home from home.
However, the number of visitors to the British Sea can be much higher, as turtles can swim quite deeply and be unobtrusive. The reptile and amphibian charities want sea turtles to be recognized as typical British animals.
Turtles in the UK
Studies show that most turtles are found in the western part of the UK, including the English Channel, around Ireland, and north of the Orkney and Shetland Islands.
A seemingly rugged five-foot Leatherback turtle was discovered off Wales by a fisherman who said he had never seen it in 20 years of fishing. Despite weighing up to 1 ton and 5 feet in length, an average of 15 leatherback turtles are most commonly found in British waters each year. Their heavier weight makes them more resistant to the cold waters of the coast, allowing them to travel to the United Kingdom.
Leatherback turtles are undoubtedly regular summer dwellers of the sea. The sea here is beautiful with lots of jellyfish, and there is a lot of food for Leatherback, so they travel to the UK.
Several species of water turtles occur in waterways. The most common is the red-eared-terrapin, initially in the UK 8,000 years ago, but now back. European pond turtles and freshwater turtles have also been observed along waterways. Studies show that most turtles are found in the western part of England, including the English Channel, around Ireland, and north of the Orkney and Shetland Islands.
A number of sea turtles can be spotted along the coastlines of Ireland and the United Kingdom. Leatherbacks, Juvenile loggerheads, and Kemp’s ridley turtles are usually the most common turtles spotted.
Head out to local lakes and ponds on sunny days to witness the turtles that come out to bask in lakes and ponds of the UK. Most turtles will be basking on the logs or edges of the river bank.
The Turtle Sighting Program is a great way to help understand turtles in UK waters, but you will be lucky if you see one; they are few and far.