Researchers from Mozambique’s Zavora Marine Lab, working with Love Nature jumped straight into action this week to save the life of a giant leatherback turtle.
The turtle – a rare sight along Zavora beach – was entangled in an illegal fishing net cast close to shore. Marine researchers had just minutes to save the giant leatherback.
The researchers were headed out to film underwater footage with Love Nature’s production team when fishermen on an approaching boat informed them they’d seen a large leatherback turtle snared in a gill net close by.
The team discovered the turtle, with netting tangled around its head and shell, and acted quickly to cut it loose within minutes.
Although a sea turtle can hold its breath for several hours, it can become distressed if caught in fishing equipment which can cause the oxygen stored in its body to quickly deplete, meaning it can drown.
The Zavora researchers estimated the turtle would have drowned within ten minutes had they not been able to cut it free. The turtle was more than one-and-a-half metres long and weighed in at about 700 kilos.
The dramatic footage will feature in an upcoming episode of Love Nature’s underwater series Great Blue Wild.
Leatherback turtles are listed as vulnerable in Mozambique, where they often caught accidentally in gill nets. They are the world’s largest marine reptile and can grow to the size of a small car.
Zavora is a beach about 420 kilometres north-east of Maputo, the capital of Mozambique. The Zavora Marine Lab conducts and promotes marine research and conservation in Mozambique.