Leatherback Turtles Hatch on Cape Hatteras After 14-Year Hiatus

leatherback turtles hatch on cape hatteras after 14 year hiatus.jpg Science

In an ecological triumph not witnessed for 16 years, Cape Hatteras National Seashore on the Outer Banks has become the hatching ground for leatherback sea turtle hatchlings. From a nest on Ocracoke Island, 19 hatchlings have embarked on their maiden voyage to the ocean, a remarkable event following the discovery of nearly 100 leatherback sea turtle eggs on the beach back in June. This occurrence, last observed in 2007 on the same island, provides a glimmer of hope for the survival of this endangered species.

Leatherbacks, the largest of all living turtles, are a sight to behold, with adults weighing up to 2,000 pounds and measuring up to 6.5 feet. However, these magnificent creatures are on the brink of extinction, with their global population plummeting an estimated 40% over the past three generations. Their decline has been so alarming that they are now considered endangered under the Endangered Species Act. This recent hatching event at Cape Hatteras is a beacon of hope in the midst of their ongoing struggle for survival.

Rare Leatherback Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge on Cape Hatteras National Seashore

For the first time in over a decade, the Cape Hatteras National Seashore on the Outer Banks witnessed an exciting event – the emergence of leatherback sea turtle hatchlings from a nest on Ocracoke Island. This remarkable occurrence has not been seen since 2007, marking a significant moment for these endangered creatures.

A Sight 16 Years in the Making

Earlier this month, officials at Cape Hatteras disclosed the discovery of nearly 100 leatherback sea turtle eggs on the beach. After 70 days of incubation, 19 hatchlings have now emerged, starting their journey to the ocean. The largest of all living turtles, these hatchlings began their life on Monday night on Ocracoke Island, marking the first such event in 16 years.

The Majestic Leatherbacks

Leatherbacks are the world’s largest sea turtles, tipping the scales at up to 2,000 pounds and reaching lengths of up to 6.5 feet as adults, according to the National Park Service. Yet, despite their size and majesty, these magnificent creatures are facing a significant decline. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports that the species’ global population has plummeted by an estimated 40% over the past three generations, earning them a spot on the Endangered Species Act.

A History of Hatching

The last time leatherback nests had hatch activity on Cape Hatteras National Seashore was in 2007 on Ocracoke Island. Prior to that, similar events were recorded in 2002 and 2000, both on Hatteras Island. The recent emergence of the hatchlings, therefore, marks a significant milestone in the conservation efforts for these endangered turtles.


The emergence of these leatherback hatchlings is a heartening sign for conservationists and nature lovers alike. It serves as a reminder of the resilience and beauty of nature, even in the face of adversity. However, the declining numbers of these magnificent creatures underscore the urgent need for continued conservation efforts. It is our collective responsibility to protect these endangered species and ensure that they continue to grace our oceans for generations to come.

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