Elias Pereira Saves Leatherback Sea Turtle In Grande Riviere Beach, Trinidad

A teen is winning admirers for a pictorial of how he saved a stranded leatherback sea turtle.

Elias Pereira (aka Saile1234), who posted the photos Tuesday on Imgur, wrote that he and his father were walking along Grande Riviere Beach in Trinidad when he saw the gigantic creature disoriented in a storm-created body of water. The mini-lake had pooled at the end of the river, blocking access to the beach. The female leatherback had just laid her eggs and got completely turned around, he said.

The 17-year-old Pereira, an aspiring marine biologist, guided the turtle back to the ocean.

"It felt great knowing I had given back something to the ocean that had filled me with so much wonderment and awe," he wrote to The Huffington Post in an email.

He added that he spoke to a turtle conservationist later that day who told him that the leatherback would have died in the river had he not rescued it.

Pereira, an Aruban-American living in Trinidad, said on Reddit that the encounter happened eight months ago. He said he hoped to return to the area soon. (Grande Riviere is one of the “most important” leatherback nesting spots in the world, See Turtles writes.)

According to National Geographic, leatherbacks are the world’s largest sea turtles, growing up to 7 feet long and 2,000 pounds. They are endangered.

Check out the rest of Pereira’s photos here.

In other leatherback sea turtle news, California’s Leatherback sea turtle could face extinction in the next 20 years. 

Less than six months after the Pacific leatherback sea turtle was named California’s official marine reptile, studies suggest it might be time to launch a search for a new species to fill the role.

A recent report from the Ecological Society of America shows the population of leatherback sea turtles in west coast waters could become extinct over the next 20 years. The species has been considered endangered since 1970.

Leatherback turtles have been on the decline since 1980, according to a press release from the Center for Biological Diversity. The population of nesting sea turtles has dropped by 5.9 percent per year since 1984. The number of nests dropped from 14,455 in 1984 to 1,532 in 2011.

“This study is a grim warning that we’re not doing enough to save leatherback sea turtles or their ocean home. The problems they face—climate change, plastic pollution, fisheries that catch far more than fish—are problems that threaten us, too,” Catherine Kilduff of the Center for Biological Diversity said in the release.

The research was conducted by a group of scientists from State University of Papua, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service and the World Wildlife Fund Indonesia.

In addition to those causes, others credit predation of eggs, beach erosion, increased sand temperature with the decline.

The use of drift gill nets is also sparking controversy in the preservation of the leatherback sea turtles. The nets, which can be over one mile long, float in the ocean and often entangle species. Though sea turtles were not found entangled in the nets in 2010, a portion of their food supply made up 98 percent of the gillnet bycatch, according to an article by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Next month, the National Marine Fisheries Services will meet to discuss the use of drift gill nets in an area inhabited by the leatherback sea turtles.

“This new study confirms that we should be doing everything possible to protect leatherback sea turtles both in our waters and abroad,” senior scientist Ben Enticknap said in the release.

In 2007, Oceana petitioned the government to create a protected, critical habitat for leatherback sea turtles off the west coast. The NMFS provided nearly 42,000 square miles of ocean habitat in 2012.

Leatherback sea turtles are the largest breed of sea turtles on earth, weighing between 550 and 2,000 pounds.

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