Posts Tagged 'animal babies'



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!

Animal Update – July 13

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!

Turquoise Tanager Chicks

We have two new turquoise tanager chicks in our Upland Tropical Rain Forest exhibit. This is the first time these birds have hatched eggs with us!

Turquoise tanager chicks

Turquoise tanagers are found in humid tropical forests throughout northern and central South America, as well as in Trinidad. Our exhibit houses two males and one female. Our turquoise tanagers began building a nest in one of the exhibit Cecropia trees in April 2012. Because the nest was high up in the tree, we were unable to confirm the number of eggs in the nest, but knew the female was sitting on at least one. After a short time, we were able to visually confirm that two chicks had hatched.

It is known that all adults within a turquoise tanager flock assist in feeding the nestlings and we were able to observe all three of our adults attending to the chicks.

Recently, we noticed the young birds’ growth and interest in leaving the nest. We covered both pools near the waterfall with netting to prevent their first tumble from the nest resulting in an accident. Once out of the nest and on the ground, we were able to transfer them to the corner cage where the adults continued to care for them. Our DNA tests have told us that one chick is a male and one is a female.

Turquoise tanagers

Both chicks are on exhibit (and still soliciting food from the adults) and we are very happy to announce that our turquoise tanager flock has grown from three to five!


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

Jimmy and Teddy go home

Remember Jimmy and Teddy? We’re happy to announce that these two loggerhead sea turtles were returned to their native North Carolina shores last week.

Aquarist with baby loggerheads

An aquarist at the North Carolina Aquarium introduces the National Aquarium team to their new baby turtles.

After spending a year with these two charming fellows in the National Aquarium, Washington, DC’s Headstart program, it was time to return them to the North Carolina Aquarium so that they can be released back to their natural habitat. While Jimmy and Teddy will be missed, the National Aquarium team is happy to see these two little loggerheads all grown up, and ready for return to the wild. Besides, they got to bring two new equally lovable 2-month-old loggerheads back to the Aquarium in DC!

Sea turtles have a challenging life. Weighing just 20 grams at birth, they face many natural predators both on the sandy beaches where they hatch and in the oceans where they dwell. Once actively hunted for their eggs and meat, loggerheads have a low survival rate. They have been classified as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.

In order to help save these magnificent animals from extinction, the National Aquarium participates in the North Carolina Aquarium’s Headstart program, which gives baby sea turtles a better chance at survival. Through this program, sea turtle hatchlings spend time in aquariums where they can safely grow. Once they are given a clean bill of health and an extra boost of nutrition, they are released back to the ocean.

Baby loggerhead turtle

One of the new 2-month-old turtles!

The new baby turtles were rescued from North Carolina beaches before Hurricane Irene hit. Last week, National Aquarium staff brought them to our DC venue, where they will remain in quarantine while their health and growth is closely monitored. When they’re ready, the two new baby loggerheads will be on exhibit. (We’ll be sure to let you know when that happens!) It is estimated that these baby turtles will weigh around 1,500 grams (a little more than 3 pounds) by next fall when they will return to North Carolina for release into the ocean. Eventually, these turtles could weigh up to 200 pounds!

Puffin chicks get names and exhibit new behaviors

Our little chicks are growing up and have been given names!

In July, we announced the hatching of not one, but two Atlantic puffin chicks at the National Aquarium, Baltimore.

The young puffins spent their first weeks in their burrows being cared for by their parents. By the end of August, the two chicks had begun exploring life outside the burrow and practicing swimming.

At that time we asked our Facebook fans and Twitter followers to suggest names for the chicks. Our puffin keepers narrowed down the lists to their top five favorites for each chick, and then we put them to a vote onsite at the Aquarium and online on our Facebook page. (We received a total of 1,836 votes!)

The winning names are Violet and Jasper!

Violet hatched on June 28, 2011, weighing 40 grams. Her parents are Victor and Vixen. This is the puffin pair’s third chick! Her big brother, Vinny, hatched last year and also received his name by popular vote.

Jasper hatched on July 10, 2011, weighing 39.4 grams. He is Tex and Kingster’s first chick.

Over the past two weeks, the chicks have become much more brave. They spend very little time in the burrow and can be seen splashing in the water and scuttling across the land in our Sea Cliffs exhibit. The little girl is starting to take fish that are thrown to her.

The chicks are starting to look a lot like their full-grown counterparts, except their bills are slightly smaller and still almost completely gray in color. Ask an Exhibit Guide if you need any help spotting them.

Visit the National Aquarium, Baltimore soon for a chance to see Violet and Jasper before they’re all grown up!

Going on midnight turtle patrol in Costa Rica

From Laura Bankey, Director of Conservation

I’m back in the United States after an amazing trip to Costa Rica. Our last group adventure took us to Manuel Antonio National Park. Relatively speaking, the area around this National Park is pretty developed, and many Costa Ricans come here for the beaches. It has had some problems in the past from pollution from the nearby towns contaminating the streams and development cutting off access for the animals. It has gotten much better, but it will only stay that way if people continue to be diligent.

Manuel Antonio National Park

Manuel Antonio National Park

The park has several trails that cut through the forest and end up on the beaches of the Pacific. Along the way, our group saw amazing insects like golden orb spiders, baby tarantulas, walking sticks, and huge grasshoppers. We also saw howler monkeys, crab-eating raccoons, white-tailed deer, two- and three-toed sloths, a yellow-crowned night heron, tree boa, and many black iguanas. The monkeys and raccoons have learned to steal food from the tourists on the beach, similar to the way raccoons take food from campers in our parks! If you want the comfort of an accessible park with nearby conveniences, all the while providing spectacular views and glimpses of local wildlife, this park is for you.

Bats, Howler Monkey, Heron

Lesser white lines bats, howler monkey, and yellow-crowned night heron

On Saturday I left the rest of the group at the airport and met up with one of our conservation partners for a trip to the Caribbean. Didiher Chacon, director of WIDECAST (Wider  Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network) Latin America, drove us to one of his sea turtle nesting beaches just south of Tortuguerro National Park.

This project is being run by the wonderful people of La Tortuga Feliz foundation, and Didiher has been their adviser for the past couple of years. Like many turtle conservation projects in Costa Rica, it is run by just a few staff members and relies on volunteers to do much of the work. The good ones, like this one, also actively seek support from the local community. In this case, the community employs local guides for turtle walks!

We got to the site in the late afternoon after a short boat ride from the nearest town. The staff and volunteers were all amazing, several of them deciding to stay long term after falling in love with the place and the project during their three-week volunteer stint.

Within the hour, we had discovered that one of the leatherback sea turtle nests in the hatchery was erupting and baby turtles were emerging. We helped gather them up for weights and measurements and placed them in a container for a later release. We did not want to release them in the middle of the day when the black sand was too hot and predators could easily spot them. At dusk, we went back down to the hatchery to let them go. It was a truly wonderful experience. I have participated in several nesting events, but never before witnessed this part of the process. What a sight!

After the release, I gave a presentation to the local community and project staff and volunteers on the National Aquarium’s work with sea turtles. There was no electricity at the site, so we hooked the computer and projector up to a generator for the presentation. Since there are very few sea turtle nests in our area, I mostly spoke about the work our Marine Animal Rescue Program does with rescue, rehabilitation, and release of our local species. I talked about the care our patients receive by our veterinary staff and the technologies we use for diagnosis. I talked about the time and effort our MARP staff and volunteers put in to the care of each animal and the joy of watching them be released back into their natural environment. It was easy to connect with my audience (even through the translator) because it was obvious that we were all participating in different but equally important aspects of the conservation of these amazing animals.

At midnight I joined a turtle patrol. Each night during the nesting season, local guides and project volunteers walk the beach to look for nesting turtles. In this region, it’s important to relocate all nests to the hatchery because poaching and turtle hunting is still prevalent, even though it is illegal in Costa Rica. While walking the beach, we saw a group of civil police on patrol. They were there to catch poachers. Later on, we heard that they confronted nine poachers that night and had confiscated a machete, sacks, and other poaching equipment. At first, I was comforted by the police presence on the beach, but Didiher informed me that in his two years on this project, this was only the second time he’s seen them and that they don’t have the resources to patrol regularly. In fact, their presence that evening was only made possible because La Tortuga Feliz paid for the gas for their boat.

The locals I spoke with that evening were passionate about saving these animals, but were disheartened by the continued disregard for the laws, and the inability of local law enforcement to enforce the laws. They are working very hard in their outreach efforts, for both local communities and in national campaigns, to emphasize the importance of protecting sea turtles, but as with all movements, this will take time. In the meantime, groups like WIDECAST, La Tortuga Feliz, and, most importantly, the local citizens that are working with them are providing a necessary foundation for the conservation of these species.


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