Tortuga Update: Loggerhead Sea Turtle Enrichment

The Adventure Aquarium team continues to work hard to make sure that little Tortuga, our Rehab and Release Loggerhead Sea Turtle, is ready to thrive when returned to the ocean next year.

Rehab and Release Sea Turtle 'Tortuga' strikes a pose.

Tortuga’s primary keeper, Alicia Longo, performs routine check-ups in which she tracks his growth and provides enrichment.

And as it’s been his track record – he’s growing fast! At today’s check up, he measured in at 4.3 kilograms or 151 ounces. That’s a little over 9 pounds! 20 ounces more than his last weigh-in three weeks ago. His shell continues to expand with his weight, measuring in at 33 cm long and 30 cm wide.

During check-ups, biologists scrub Tortuga’s shell with a soft bristle brush in order to work any built-up algae off his shell. Once released back into the wild, Tortuga will take over this process by rubbing his shell up against coral or the sea bottom.

During his check-up, Tortuga gets his shell buffed clean.

Once a day, Tortuga is fed a diet 2% of his body weight; a mix comprised 50% of a gel/vitamin mix and 50% animal protein. And since he must learn to thrive on his own for his eventual release into the ocean, the team provides enrichment to Tortuga meant to teach him foraging skills.  During today’s feed, Alicia fed Tortuga a moon jelly, a grazer with kale, as well as a whiffle ball with gel and capelin, which replicates the experience of trying to work animal protein out of a shell, much like if Tortuga were hunting for mollusks or crustaceans.

Tortuga watches as Alicia prepares Tortuga's food enrichment tools.

And although Loggerheads typically eat benthic (bottom-dwelling) foods, Alicia and other biologists at Adventure Aquarium feed Tortuga on all levels of the water column in order to give him training for any scenario he may encounter in the ocean.

Watch as Tortuga successfully catches and enjoys a delicious Moon Jelly:

Biologists measure Tortuga’s response to enrichment on a scale from 1-3; 1 being the most un-engaged, and 3 being the highest engaged. The purpose of this rating scale is to continue to provide more complex, essential life skills for Tortuga as he grows.  When he starts to get more 3’s, biologists will introduce a new, more challenging exercise for him to enjoy!

Tortuga works at the whiffle ball during his food enrichment exercise.

And in case you’re wondering, he did very well during today’s feed, scoring a 3 for the moon jellies, a 3 for the grazer and a 2 for the whiffle ball. Go, Tortuga!

Tortuga - going after the kale stuffed inside his grazer.

Obviously enjoying the kale!

He has a lot more growing to do! Follow our blog for ongoing updates on Adventure Aquarium’s smallest, youngest Sea Turtle.

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