Leatherback Turtle - profile

Indicative distribution

   Loading map...
The areas shown in pink and/purple are the sub-regions where the species or community is known or predicted to occur. They may not occur thoughout the sub-region but may be restricted to certain areas. ( click here to see geographic restrictions). The information presented in this map is only indicative and may contain errors and omissions.
Scientific name: Dermochelys coriacea
Conservation status in NSW: Endangered
Commonwealth status: Endangered
Gazetted date: 09 Dec 2011
Profile last updated: 30 May 2018


A very large sea-turtle up to 3 m long with heavy paddle-shaped limbs lacking claws. Adults are dark brown or black above, sometimes with paler marbling or longitudinal rows of fine dots on the back, while hatchlings are a rich blue-black trimmed with white, and pale below. The adult shell is covered by a thick, smooth, leathery skin. There is a series of seven prominent longitudinal ridges above the shell and four ridges along the lower half of the shell.


Throughout the world's tropical and temperate seas and in all coastal waters of Australia. Most sightings are in temperate waters. Large numbers of Leatherback Turtles feed in coastal waters from southern Queensland to the central coast of NSW.

Habitat and ecology

  • Occurs in inshore and offshore marine waters.
  • Rarely breeds in Australia, with the nearest regular nesting sites being the Solomon Islands and Malayan Archipelago. Occasional breeding records from NSW coast, including between Ballina and Lennox Head in northern NSW.
  • Number of sightings in southern waters suggest species actively seeks temperate feeding grounds, rather than occurring only as stray vagrants.
  • Feed on jellyfish.

Regional distribution and habitat

Click on a region below to view detailed distribution, habitat and vegetation information.


Recovery strategies

Activities to assist this species

Information sources

IBRA Bioregion IBRA Subregion Known or predicted Geographic restrictions region
NSW North CoastCoffs Coast and Escarpment Predicted None
NSW North CoastKaruah Manning Known None
NSW North CoastMacleay Hastings Known None
NSW North CoastYuraygir Predicted None
OceanBatemans Shelf Known None
OceanHawkesbury Shelf Known None
OceanManning Shelf Known None
OceanSouth Pacific Ocean Predicted None
OceanTweed-Moreton Known None
South Eastern QueenslandBurringbar-Conondale Ranges Predicted None
South Eastern QueenslandClarence Lowlands Known None
South Eastern QueenslandScenic Rim Predicted None
South Eastern QueenslandSunshine Coast-Gold Coast Lowlands Predicted None
Sydney BasinPittwater Known None
Sydney BasinSydney Cataract Predicted None
Sydney BasinWyong Predicted None