Archive for the 'Reptiles' Category



Animal Update – September 14

Between our Baltimore and Washington, DC, venues, more than 17,500 animals representing 900 species call the National Aquarium home. There are constant changes, additions, and more going on behind the scenes that our guests may not notice during their visit. We want to share these fun updates with our community so we’re bringing them to you in our weekly Animal Update posts!

Check our blog every Friday to find out what’s going on… here’s what’s new this week!

New Mississippi Map Turtles

Two Mississippi map turtles have been added to the Mississippi River exhibit of our America’s Freshwater Ecosystems gallery. The  female, “Edy Van Halen” and  male, “David Lee Roth” aptly gained their names from the similar “V” Van Halen logo  on the top of their heads!

Our male Mississippi map turtle, David Lee Roth

Females of this species are considerably larger than males, the can grow to be up to 10 inches long! Generally, female turtles are larger so that they can expand their abdomen as eggs develop. Males only need to grow large enough to be able to mate with females.

Our female, Edy Van Halen

Be sure to check back every Friday to find out what’s happening!

Terrapins Go Back to School!

As children from across Maryland head back to school, students from 32 schools are welcoming baby turtles to their classrooms!

Through the National Aquarium’s Terrapins in the Classroom program, hatchling diamondback turtles are collected from Poplar Island and placed in schools across the state. This year’s terrapins hatched in late July and early August. Aquarium staff cared for them until they began to eat regularly. This week and next week, the terrapins are being delivered to their new schools!

A terrapin hatchling

Students are charged with collecting growth data on the terrapins, observing their behavior, and researching their natural history. Along the way, they learn basic husbandry (animal care) skills and gain a unique connection to the Chesapeake Bay. At the end of the school year, students will release their terrapin back on Poplar Island.

Last school year, Matthew Floyd, an eighth grader from Lime Kiln Middle School, made a special connection with the terrapin at his school. Nicknamed “Leo” by the students, the terrapin was a key component of the school’s special education program. Every day Matt made sure to stop by to check on Leo and feed him. Matt’s experience with Leo taught him about how his actions can impact the environment. “We humans are finally learning from our mistakes, and that means everyone’s happy, including our animal friends,” he said.

This school year, hundreds of students, just like Matt, will develop a meaningful connection with their terrapin. Through this hands-on approach to conservation, the Terrapins in the Classroom program hopes to inspire life-long environmental stewardship.

Students get a closer look at a baby terrapin

The good news is there are many ways that you, too, can help diamondback terrapins! You can do your part by protecting wetlands, helping to ensure trash does not end up in our waterways, and practicing terrapin-safe crabbing!

Animal Update – August 31

Between our Baltimore and Washington, DC, venues, more than 17,500 animals representing 900 species call the National Aquarium home. There are constant changes, additions, and more going on behind the scenes that our guests may not notice during their visit. We want to share these fun updates with our community so we’re bringing them to you in our weekly Animal Update posts!

Check our blog every Friday to find out what’s going on… here’s what’s new this week!

We’re experiencing quite the baby boom! 

As we first announced earlier this week, a new spiny-tailed monitor was born in the backup area of our Animal Plant Australia: Wild Extremes exhibit. But this is just one of many new family additions…

Spiny-tailed monitor hatchling

We also have turquoise tanager chicks flying around our Upland Tropical Rain Forest exhibit. Our tanager flock continues to grow! We first announced the arrival of two chicks last month and we are so excited to have more of these adorable babies. You can see the majority of our family of tanagers flying around our Rain Forest now!

Turquoise tanager chick

And don’t forget our new baby screaming piha chick! Also born in our Upland Tropical Rain Forest, this baby is the first to be born in captivity in North America.

Blacktip Reef animals are on the move! 

Blacktip Reef renovations are coming soon and we’ve already started preparations with animal moves. Some of the animals you’re used to seeing in our Wings in the Water exhibit have been moved to their new homes within the Aquarium: Two large roughtail rays are now in Open Ocean exhibit and a cownose ray, two southern rays and a hogfish have all been moved to our Atlantic Coral Reef exhibit. Additionally, over the last two weeks, our staff has worked closely with Georgia Aquarium staff to transport roughtail rays, cownose rays and barracudas to their new home at the Georgia Aquarium.

National Aquarium divers helps to collect animals from Wings in the Water
Photo courtesy of John Soule

Staff and volunteers safely moving a cownose ray from the Wings in the Water exhibit
Photo courtesy of John Soule

We still have a few more animals to move. Next Monday, we’ll be moving our zebra sharks Zeke and Zoe as well as our green sea turtle Calypso to our off-site Animal Care Center, where they will stay until they join their new friends in Blacktip Reef next summer!

Watch this video to learn more about the new animals that will be coming to Blacktip Reef!

Be sure to check back every Friday to find out what’s happening!

We Have ANOTHER Spiny-Tailed Monitor Baby!

On Monday, a spiny-tail monitor baby hatched in our Animal Planet Australia: Wild Extremes exhibit backup area! We are so excited to have another baby spiny-tailed monitor join the one that hatched on July 6!

These babies will stay in our backup area in the care of our staff. Although our guests won’t be able to see the young, you can see their parents in the front.

New Baby American Alligators at Our Washington, DC, Venue!

Our Washington, DC, venue has added four baby American alligators! They’ve traveled from Savoie Alligator Farm in New Orleans to stay with us for a year. These alligators are one of only two species that don’t spend their whole lives at the Aquarium because of their size. American alligators can grow to a length of up to 15 feet; we can only accommodate them until they reach about 5 feet in length. Once they’ve exceeded that size, we transport them back to their home and return with four new babies!

One of our herpetologists (zoologist specializing in reptiles), Calvin Weaver, with a baby gator during its exit exam!

After going through standard precautionary measures to ensure their safety and the safety of our other species on exhibit, these gators are finally ready for their public debut. A brief quarantine period is essential to make sure that every animal in our care is stress-free and healthy. Animals that come to us from the wild are known to carry disease and parasites that could spread to other animals and even our staff, so it is very important to keep a close eye on all animals when they first arrive. Once our veterinarians and herpetologists determine that they have successfully finished their quarantine period, the alligators are given an exit exam and moved into their new habitat.

During the exit exam, our staff takes weight and length measurements, checks the flexibility of their limbs, and makes sure all those gator teeth are growing in properly. As of now, our baby gators each weigh about 3.5 pounds and are between 30–35 inches long.

Don’t let their size fool you! These baby alligators are strong; it takes more than one staff member to keep them calm and still to complete their exit exam.

The American alligator, a species once considered endangered, is now thriving in the southeastern United States thanks to state and federal protections and habitat preservation efforts. Fully grown, they can weigh 1,000 pounds and pulse through freshwater rivers, lakes, and swamps at speeds up to 20 mph.

We are excited to welcome them and hope you can come meet them in person soon!


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