Behind-the-scenes for a sea turtle enrichment session

As an Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA)-accredited institution, Adventure Aquarium’s husbandry team provides daily enrichment for our animals, using a variety of tools and changes meant to enhance their health and welfare.

Enrichment can take on many shapes and sizes. It can be something as simple as changing an exhibit design or features to enrich an animal’s habitat; to incorporating objects that can be manipulated by an animal in order to stimulate certain behavioral skills or increase intellectual focus.

Each animal has a specific plan and schedule that is followed rigorously by our biologists. Today we captured moments of enrichment that Biologist Liz Hann was providing our massive Loggerhead and Green sea turtles.

Turtle EnrichmentSea turtles are given enrichment on a daily basis, often incorporated into their feeding schedule. During the afternoon shark feeds in Ocean Realm, biologists throw lettuce into the exhibit. Not only does this provide a distraction (so they don’t steal the sharks’ food!), it also allows turtles Bob, Stitches and Old Green the chance to hunt and forage.

Feeding Bob3

Another essential enrichment exercise is scrubbing the turtle carapace, or shell. Liz shows how they use a hard bristle brush to remove any algae buildup.

Scrubbing Loggerhead Sea Turtle

Loggerhead Bob enjoys a good scrubbing.

Loggerhead Bob enjoys a good scrubbing.

Their foraging skills are put to good practice by way of an oversized gray whiffle-type ball stuffed with vegetables. The ball stays afloat on the surface, allowing the turtles to push it around as they work out the broccoli or lettuce.

Liz Hann prepares to drop the oversized 'whiffle ball' into Ocean Realm for the turtles.

Liz Hann prepares to drop the oversized ‘whiffle ball’ into Ocean Realm for the turtles.

Whiffle Ball and Green Sea Turtle

One of Loggerhead Bob’s favorite enrichment exercises is a block of ice: capelin and lettuce frozen in water infused with fish juices. Bob seems to love the ice block, pushing it around the surface and working at the lettuce as the block melts.

Bob and Ice Block

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Did you know? You can actually help biologists with enrichment exercises during our behind-the-scenes “Sea Turtles Up Close” Adventure. During this exclusive encounter, you can actually go ON DECK with our biologists to feed the turtles; even getting to scrub their shells!

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