A post-mortem examination has revealed that a massive leatherback turtle found tangled in creel ropes on the west coast had drowned.
The 6ft underwater giant, more commonly found in the warm waters of the Caribbean, was picked up on Wednesday by a local fisherman in Eddrachillis Bay near Drumbeg, Sutherland.
The leatherback weighed a massive 58st 11lbs and was aged between 40 and 80.
Andrew Brownlow, director of the Scottish Marine Mammal Stranding Scheme, said tests showed it had drowned, probably after becoming entangled in the creel ropes.
“We carried out the post-mortem examination to rule out any other infectious diseases or trauma and, while it was sad that it died in this way, it was good to find that it had not suffered any plastic ingestion,” he said.
The endangered species, which has been around for more than a hundred million years, normally nests in theCaribbean.
It was towed by the fisherman to Lochinver to the amazement of locals and kept in the harbour under cover until staff from the Scottish Agricultural College in Inverness picked it up.
“It looked out of this world,” said Highland Council ranger Andy Summers.
“A lot of people came down to look at it, even Lochinver Primary School.
“I’ve never seen anything like a leatherback’s mouth. It has backward pointing spines to stop the jellyfish getting back out.”
The last leatherback seen in the area was found dead onshore at Drumbeg in 2003.