Commemorating World Sea Turtle Day with loggerhead sea turtle Seamore

This #TurtleTuesday is extra special because it’s also World Sea Turtle Day, a day to throw the spotlight on worldwide sea turtle science and conservation. We can’t think of a better ambassador for this day than our very own 9-month old rehab and release loggerhead sea turtle Seamore, rescued off the coast of North Carolina in 2014.

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Last October Seamore was brought to Adventure Aquarium for 12-18 months of head-start preparations as our biologists provide nrichment and exercises meant to prepare Seamore for life in the “big blue” once he’s returned to the Atlantic Oceans in a little over a year.

Seamore as a tiny hatchling, getting ready for his journey to Adventure Aquarium

Seamore as a tiny hatchling, getting ready for his journey to Adventure Aquarium

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), of the 7 species of sea turtles, 6 are found in U.S. waters. All sea turtles occurring in U.S. waters are listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). 10 populations are endangered and 6 populations are threatened.

Rescued off the coast of North Carolina, Seamore is prepped to his transfer to Adventure Aquarium in October 2014.

From Seamore’s archives! Prepped for his transfer in October 2014.

As a result, many conservation strategies are currently being implemented in an effort to help save sea turtles from extinction. In November 2012, Adventure Aquarium began participating in a sea turtle conservation and tracking project ran by North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores. This conservation program allows sea turtle hatchlings to get a head start at aquariums where they are closely monitored and grow in a safe environment for eventual release into the ocean.

Aquarium Insider fans may recall last month’s update where we shared some of the outside-the-box enrichment biologists are providing to Seamore to keep him stimulated and ready for his eventual release. Biologist Dave Lestino is happy to report that Seamore is continuing to do well with his enrichment; slowly getting used his back scratcher and continuing to show interest in his wiffleball and grazer. And of course, he’s not just expanding his mind, he’s also maintaining a steady, healthy weight gain on his diet of 40 grams a day (food favorite: mastigias jellyfish treats) He’s now up to 1090 grams – nearly 2.5 pounds!

Check out Seamore in action on exhibit!

Curious what you can do to help sea turtles like Seamore? U.S. Fish & Wildlife offers these tips:

  • Minimize beachfront lighting during the sea turtle nesting season by turning off, shielding, or redirecting lights away from the beach.
  • Close blinds and draperies in oceanfront rooms at night to keep indoor lighting from reaching the beach.
  • Remove recreational equipment, such as lounge chairs, cabanas, umbrellas, and boats, from the beach at night. These items can deter nesting attempts and prevent hatchlings from reaching the ocean.
  • Do not to construct beach campfires during nesting season. Sea turtle hatchlings are attracted to the light and may crawl into fires and die.
  • Use your natural vision and moonlight when walking on the beach at night.
  • If you encounter a turtle on the beach at night, remain quiet, still and at a distance. Flash photography and human disturbance may prevent her from nesting successfully.
  • Leave the tracks left by turtles undisturbed. Researchers use the tracks to identify the species of turtle that nested and to find and mark the nests for protection.
  • If you encounter a sea turtle nest or hatchlings, leave the eggs and baby turtles alone.
  • Properly dispose of your garbage. Turtles may mistake plastic bags, styrofoam, and trash floating in the water as food and die when this trash blocks their intestines.
  • Celebrate events without the use of helium balloon releases. Like plastic trash, balloons end up in the ocean, especially when released near the coast. Sea turtles mistakenly eat the balloons and die.
  • Avoid trampling beach vegetation. Use boardwalks when available instead of walking over dunes. Natural vegetation stabilizes sand and reduces beach erosion.
  • When boating, stay alert and avoid sea turtles. Propeller and collision impacts from boats and ships can result in injury and death of sea turtles. Also, stay in channels and avoid running in seagrass beds to protect this important habitat from prop scarring and damage.
  • Avoid anchoring boats in seagrass beds and coral reefs which serve as important feeding and resting habitats for sea turtles.
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Loggerhead sea turtle Ozzy makes his first swims inside Ocean Realm!

Biologist Sarah Stafford updates us on the efforts biologists are taking to prepare this very special turtle for his new life inside Adventure Aquarium’s Ocean Realm exhibit. 

By: Sarah Stafford, Biologist – Fish & Invertebrates

My name is Sarah and I am a biologist at Adventure Aquarium. I’m also the primary care giver for loggerhead sea turtle Ozzy, who has been at Adventure Aquarium since November 9, 2012. Ozzy was deemed non-releasable by U.S. Fish and Wildlife because he has limited control of his rear flippers and he has had multiple lung infections which has resulted in a decreased lung capacity that has caused him to be slightly negatively buoyant. We received Ozzy from the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores, which has a rescue and rehab sea turtle program at their aquarium.

Ozzy in 2012

Ozzy, when he first arrived at Adventure Aquarium

When he first arrived at Adventure Aquarium, he weighed in at 5 pounds and was only 10 inches long. Presently, he weighs 55 pounds and is 60 inches long!  And while we don’t know Ozzy’s gender yet, as his name suggests, we refer to him as a male turtle. Ozzy was on exhibit while he was small, but for the last few months he has been living behind-the scenes in one of our large holding systems.  While behind-the-scenes, Ozzy was receiving medical treatments and learning how to swim in deeper water environments.

Ozzy, up close! A bigger, stronger turtle today.

Ozzy, up close! A bigger, stronger turtle today.

Today, Ozzy is currently living in our Ocean Realm acclimation area connected to the larger exhibit that guests see during a visit. He’s healthy enough to go on some excursions out into the 760,000 gallon exhibit and on March 12 we was his very first try. Ozzy did great!  He’s still a little guy compared to our other loggerhead, Bob, so our Fish & Invertebrates team dived with Ozzy just in case Bob got a little too curious.

Ozzy with our other, larger loggerhead sea turtle Bob

Ozzy with our other, larger loggerhead sea turtle Bob

Like I mentioned, he is a lot smaller than the other sea turtles so he can’t be out by himself just yet. The other concern with Ozzy was if he would be strong enough to make it to the surface for a breath of air since Ocean Realm is our deepest exhibit at 25 ft. Ozzy’s buoyancy issues were a concern for the team and we needed to make sure he would not have any trouble getting up in the water column.

Learning how to navigate inside Ocean Realm, with the help of Adventure Aquarium biologists

Learning how to navigate inside Ocean Realm, with the help of Adventure Aquarium biologists

During our first dive we had to nudge him a little to get him to swim up to the surface.  He made it to the top with only a little difficulty.  Then during his second dive, he made it three times to the surface by himself and even one from the abyss, the deepest part of Ocean Realm!  We are continuing his Ocean Realm swims weekly and monitoring what places we will need to adjust and make “Ozzy friendly.” Stay tuned for ongoing updates and to learn more about when you can see Ozzy during your next visit.

Watch the full video of Ozzy’s first swims inside Ocean Realm:

Big Announcement: 20th penguin chick hatched at Adventure Aquarium!

Adventure Aquarium's 20th Chick

We’re thrilled to announce that our newest African penguin chick hatched on March 2 to parents Minnie and Kamikaze. The chick weighed 51 grams at hatching, and since then has already gained 524 grams, making its weight this morning a healthy 575 grams. And we’re happy to report that the chick is strong and healthy, and very vocal.

A growing chick!

A growing chick!

The team does a daily check up!

The team performs a daily check up!

This chick has the distinction of being the 20th chick successfully hatched here at Adventure Aquarium, and is a very important part of our continued participation in the AZA African Penguin Species Survival Program (SSP). We are all very proud of our breeding program of this endangered species here at Adventure Aquarium, and can’t help but be truly excited for every new chick.

Meet the 20th chick hatched at Adventure Aquarium!

Meet the 20th chick hatched at Adventure Aquarium!

Minnie and Kamikaze will continue to raise the chick behind the scenes at Penguin Island, and in a few months our team here will begin the process of starting to introduce the chick to the exhibit and the other penguins, including its five siblings here at Adventure Aquarium – Jack, Myer, Jambo, Saba and Cornelius.

 

Curator Michele Pagel with the newest addition to the Adventure Aquarium family

Curator Michele Pagel with the newest addition to the Adventure Aquarium family

By: Michele Pagel, Curator Birds & Mammals

Adventure Aquarium welcomes its newest penguin chick! Meet 4-day old “Goblin”

Goblin3We’re excited to introduce to you the newest addition to our growing penguin colony! Meet tiny chick “Goblin” who hatched overnight on October 17 to parents Jack and Diane.

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Weighing in at 65 grams (size of a golf ball) at birth, Goblin is doing really well: strong, healthy, very vocal and growing quickly as African penguin chicks do.  In fact, during today’s weigh-in, he doubled his size, measuring in at 146 grams!

Goblin during today's weigh-in

Goblin during today’s weigh-in

Goblin will continue to thrive under the watchful eyes of its penguin parents Jack and Diane, and under the supervision of our biologists and veterinary staff.  Penguin chicks typically take 38-42 days to hatch out of their eggs after they are laid. During an incubation period, both parents will take turns sitting on the egg. After the chick hatches, mom and dad take turns protecting, feeding and keeping the chick warm 2 to 3 days at a time.

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Jack and Diane will continue to raise Goblin behind the scenes at Penguin Island, and in a few months will begin the process of starting to be introduced to the exhibit and the other penguins. So stay tuned for updates!

Fun Facts:

  • Goblin is the fourth hatchling for Jack (12 years old) and Diane (14 years old), already parents to 6-year-old Little Ditty, and 1-year-olds Pumpkin and Patch. Penguin watchers may recall that it was just about a year ago to this date that Jack and Diane welcomed penguin chicks Pumpkin and Patch!
  • Coincidentally, Goblin also shares the same birthday as two of our other penguins – Liberty (the very first chick to hatch here at Adventure Aquarium) and Meadow!
  • Biologists won’t know Goblin’s gender until a few months after a blood draw successfully determines whether we have a ‘he’ or ‘she.’
  • Jack and Diane were paired back in 2007 through the Association of Zoos and Aquarium’s (AZA’s) African penguin Species Survival Plan (SSP), a program that encourages zoos and aquariums to work together to help ensure the survival of African Penguins through a scientifically-controlled breeding program.
  • Since we began working with the program in 1998, Adventure Aquarium has successfully bred and raised nineteen African Black-Footed Penguin chicks (Goblin included!)

Adventure Aquarium sponsors ocean trawl to research plastic polluton

Content and images courtesy of 5 Gyres

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The 5 Gyres Team from their Viking Gyre Expedition, a 2,500 nautical mile journey from Bermuda to Iceland. Adventure Aquarium sponsored Trawl #17.

We love our oceans! Unfortunately, modern times have led to negative repercussions on the health of our oceans, in part due to an overabundance of trash that has found its way into waterways.  Did you know that – in fact – in the world’s oceans, there are massive currents carrying floating debris in what are called the five (5) subtropical gyres: North Pacific, South Pacific, North Atlantic, South Atlantic, and Indian Ocean Gyre.

The 5 ocean gyres

The 5 ocean gyres – illustrated

And while we can all agree that it’s a major issue, little is known about ocean pollution – specifically what role plastic pollution plays.  One organization leading the charge to change this is the team at 5 Gyres, an institute whose mission is to conduct research and communicate about the global impact of plastic pollution in the world’s oceans and employ strategies to eliminate the accumulation of plastic pollution in the 5 subtropical gyres.

The manta trawl

The manta trawl

5 Gyres conducts the majority of their research via ocean trawls in which a data-collection device called a Manta Trawl is lowered into the water and towed behind their vessel to skim the surface. The goal is to collect samples of the ocean’s surface to quantify and research the mass, size, color and type of pollution floating in these massive gyres.  Fish caught during the expedition are examined for plastic ingestion.  Stomach contents are sorted and weighed with tissue samples being preserved for future analysis of persistent organic pollutants.  This research provides valuable data for scientists and others desperate to know the impact plastic pollution has on our environment.

Debris is separated and sent back to the United States for research.

Debris is separated and sent back to the United States for research.

Recently, Adventure Aquarium and our Fins for the Future Committee had the privilege of supporting the team at 5 Gyres during their Viking Gyre Expedition, a 2,500 nautical mile journey from Bermuda to Iceland.  We sponsored Trawl #17 that was taken more than 500 miles east of Nova Scotia, with whales and sargassum seaweed nearby.  An hour after the trawl was dropped into the water, the 5 Gyres team pulled out a sample containing multiple fragments of plastic pollution typical of ocean samples around the world. Each sample is then taken back to the US to be analyzed for plastic particle count and weight per square kilometer.

Check out this exclusive video from the trawl:

We’re honored to be part of the effort to increase research about and spread awareness of plastic pollution! Learn more about the expedition, and what you can do by visiting www.5gyres.org.

Adventure Aquarium’s three-banded Armadillo gets into World Cup fever – and for good reason!

By: Brandon Deane – Biologist, Birds & Mammals

GGGGGOOOOOOOOAAAAAALLLLLLL!!!! You’ll be hearing this a lot during the upcoming 2014 FIFA World Cup being played in Brazil. The World Cup is played every 4years in different locations around the world and for the last 48years they have had a mascot representing not only the World Cup but also the Country in which the games are played. Well, say hello to Fuleco the Brazilian mascot.

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Fuleco is a fusion name for Futbol and Ecologia which means soccer and ecology, two things that are of great importance to not only Brazil but the world. Now what makes Fuleco so cool to us here at Adventure Aquarium is that he is a three-banded armadillo…just like our very own Tank.

Tank2The three-banded armadillo, unfortunately, is a species on the decline because of deforestation and hunting by humans so having Tank…I mean Fuleco as the FIFA World Cup mascot will be great for education and awareness for this species. Not to mention he is just so stinkin cute. Brazil kicks off the World Cup on June 12 against Croatia and Fuleco will be there rooting for his country. Root all you want Fuleco, we have a Tank that says team U.S.A. is going to make some noise.

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U.S.A. plays June 16th vs. Ghana @ 6pm, June 22nd vs. Portugal @ 6pm, and June 26th vs. Germany @ Noon.

So lets Kick It!!!! The soccer ball of course, not Tank.

Adventure Aquarium releases more than 50 Horseshoe crabs into the Delaware Bay off Cape May

Exciting news in the conservation of a dwindling species! Yesterday, researchers from Adventure Aquarium and Richard Stockton College of New Jersey released 50 juvenile horseshoe crabs back into the Delaware Bay in Cape May County. The juveniles, which were 2 and 3 years old, were part of our Horseshoe Crab Head-Start Program.

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Starting in July 2011 and led by Adventure Aquarium biologist Matt Ferroni, the program gives horseshoe crabs a better chance of survival and reproduction in the wild (learn more here). Because as far as misunderstood creatures go, horseshoe crabs certainly get a bad rap. They look scary and menacing, but are in reality perfectly harmless creatures that inhabit the same shoreline that you and I visit every summer.  In fact, the Delaware Bay is home to one of the largest populations of horseshoe crabs in the world!  However, few people would even guess that this number is dwindling.  The horseshoe crab which has existed on earth since the time of the dinosaurs is facing a population decline, which has a ripple effect in the ecosystem.   The many endangered migratory birds that feed on their eggs each year along the Bay (i.e. the Red Knot) and sea turtles depend on horseshoe crabs for food.

The crabs were ready to be released!

Each crab was tagged with a coded wire tag that allows Adventure Aquarium biologists to identify the crabs in the future. 

Matt carries a couple horseshoe crabs out to the release area.

Matt carries a couple horseshoe crabs out to the release area.

Over 50 horseshoe crabs were released into the Delaware Bay

Over 50 horseshoe crabs were released into the Delaware Bay

Survival rates for horseshoe crabs in the wild are very low. For example, a single female horseshoe crab can lay up to 80,000 eggs on the Delaware Bay, but it’s estimated that only 10 of those 80,000 reach adulthood.  Thanks to the Aquariums biologists, the survival rate of the juveniles has improved to 35%. Each crab that is collected gets tagged with a coded wire tag that allows Adventure Aquarium biologists to identify the crabs in the future.  The hope is that the tags will be retained through the horseshoe crab molts to allow for future studies.

Our team anticipates a release each year going forward, as more eggs are collected and raised to juvenile crabs each year. So the story continues! Be sure to stay tuned for ongoing updates on Adventure Aquarium’s horseshoe crab conservation efforts.