The largest known population of leatherback turtles was discovered on the beaches of Gabon, West Africa, by an international team of scientists in May, Science Daily reports. Land and aerial surveys estimate the number of female nesting turtles to be anywhere between 15,730 and 41,373.
Leatherbacks are currently categorized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as critically endangered around the world; populations were decimated in the Indo-Pacific region by more than 90 percent in the 1980s and ‘90s. The recent study reveals that as much as 79 percent of the world’s current leatherback nesting takes place in protected areas, making Gabon’s national parks a conservation priority.
On top of funding from several international conservation groups to pursue leatherback preservation initiatives, the team responsible for the discovery has also received $450,000 in grant aid to conduct a three-year project to improve marine biodiversity management in Gabon.