Feb 1

We’ve asked conservation organisations around the world to nominate a species that they believe to be overlooked, underappreciated and unloved, and tell us why they think that they deserve a fair share of the limelight, this Valentine’s Day.

Each nominee’s story is featured on the Arkive blog with information on the species, what makes them so special, the conservation organisation that nominated them and how they are working to save them from extinction.

Click the ‘unloved species’ tag above to see all of the nominations and their blogs.

Once you have perused the blogs you can vote for your favourite to help get them into the top ten unloved species and get them the recognition that they truly deserve! Share your favourite with others using the #LoveSpecies hashtag on Twitter and Facebook and tell them why they should vote for them too. Voting closes on February 14th at 23:59 PST (07:59 GMT).

Join us and our conservation partners in celebrating and raising awareness for some of the world’s most unloved species this Valentine’s Day!

Species: Leatherback turtle

Nominated by: Sea Turtle Conservancy

Conservation status: Vulnerable

Why do you love it? Leatherbacks are very unique as they are the only sea turtle species without a hard shell. They also grow the largest, swim the farthest, and dive the deepest, all while existing on a diet of jellyfish! They are the most widely distributed of all sea turtles and have been found as far north as Alaska and as far south as the southern tip of Africa. They are known to be active in water below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, the only reptile known to remain active at such a low temperature. One of our favourite features on a leatherback is their amazing mouth!

What are the threats to the leatherback turtle? The greatest threat to leatherback sea turtles is from incidental take in commercial fisheries. Each year hundreds of thousands of turtles are accidentally captured in fisheries ranging from highly mechanised operations to small-scale fishermen around the world. Global estimates of annual capture, injury and mortality are staggering — 150,000 sea turtles (all species) are killed in shrimp trawls and large numbers of all species are drowned in gill nets. The extent of gill net mortality is unknown, but sea turtle capture is significant where studied, and the drowning of sea turtles in gill nets may be comparable to trawl and longline mortality. Deaths in gill nets are particularly hard to quantify because these nets are set by uncounted numbers of local fishermen in tropical waters around the world. Another major threat to leatherbacks is marine pollution such as balloons and plastic bags floating in the water, which are mistaken for jellyfish and eaten.

What are you doing to save it? STC works to conserve leatherback turtle populations at multiple project sites including: Tortuguero, Costa Rica; Soropta Beach, Panama and Chiriqui Beach, Panama. Leatherback nests at Chiriqui Beach are on the rise and in 2015, STC researchers counted over 5,000 nests. On Soropta Beach, leatherback nesting was double that of 2014! In 2014 we had 379 nests and in 2015 we had 781 on the stretch of beach we monitor.

Poaching of nests and turtles has also been significantly reduced in all areas where STC researchers are present. We also have a program where we equip leatherback turtles from Panama with satellite transmitters so that we can study their migration patterns. So far, we have tracked the migrations of 30 leatherbacks. Their live satellite maps can be viewed on our website’s Turtle Tracker, along with dozens of other species of turtles we are tracking.

Find out more about STC’s Turtle Tracker project

Discover more turtle species on Arkive