• Leatherback Turtle along the Thames

  • October - November 1998
  • I know of one well documented record of a Leatherback Turtle along the Thames in the London area, in October and November 1998. A full report by T.E.S Langton, with a photograph, was published in The London Naturalist No.78 1999.

  • My friends Tony Clancy and Steve Connor found a dead Leatherback Turtle washed up on Aveley Bay, Rainham, East London on the weekend of 28/29 November 1998, after which it was taken away for a postmortem.

    The report indicates that the turtle was first seen in bad health about 2 miles east of the Queen Elizabeth Bridge/Dartford River Crossing on 26 October (the report later gives this date incorrectly as 26 November), and what was assumed to be the same turtle was found dead 27 days later at Tilbury on 22 November.
    The turtle had a large gash thought to have been caused by a propeller, and the postmortem found a 11mm x 75mm fragment of plastic at the entrance to its stomach.

    The paper includes an interesting discussion of this rare event, and covers ecology, other east coast records, possibilities for rehabilitation of stricken turtles, recommendations for dealing with stricken turtles etc.

    Report by Andrew Middleton

    Only one turtle was thought to have been involved - the initial sighting of a sickly leatherback turtle was made about 5 miles down river of Aveley ay  - the turtle was found dead a further mile or so down river 27 days later on 22 Nov at Tilbury Dock by Mick Kirby - he tied the carcase up to the dock - phoned the Reptile section of Nat His Mus, Env Ag, and Inst of Zoology - nobody seemed interested so the corpse was let loose. Gashes to the head and esp to the side indicate that the same turtle was found by Tony
    Clancy and Steve Connor - prob Sat 28th Nov or poss Sun 29 Nov 6 miles upriver at Aveley Bay - Rainham. Im not sure where Billingsgate is but it must be at least 10 miles upriver from Aveley - I would think the chances of a live and injured turtle - then a dead turtle nearby with heavy injuries - then a dead turtle 5 miles from the intial sighting with similar injuries would reasonably be considered to be the same creature. Of course another dead turtle with similar injuries could have been thrown out at Billingsgate - or if one wants to get silly - there were three around.

    Tony clancy contacted Clive Herbert (LNHS mammal recorder and London Amphibian and Reptile Trust) who went down to see the body - finally the EA collected the corpse and Inst Zoology  carried out a post mortem and tests.
    No credit was given to Clancy or Connor - who found and recognised the corpse and informed Clive Herbert.

    The article contains much more info and if you cannot get a copy of the 1999 London Naturalist No 78.

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