Posts Tagged 'Endangered Species'

Animal Rescue Update: 13 Turtles Successfully Released in Florida!

national aquarium Animal Rescue Update

After five months in rehabilitation, 13 endangered sea turtles were successfully released in Florida last week! The turtles, all admitted for complications from cold-stunning, had made a full recovery and were ready for release. This time of year, the waters in the northeast are too cold for sea turtles, so our staff (and the turtles) got to take a road trip to Florida!

The morning of the release began with a staff briefing at 3:00 AM. After our briefing, staff quickly set up an “assembly line” to make it easier for staff – one staff pulled turtles from their enclosure, while two staff administered fluids and took exit photos of the turtles. Lastly, the turtles were handed off to the last staff member, who gave each turtle a massage of water-based lubricant to keep their shells hydrated and secured them in their designated transport boxes. The turtles were in the transport vehicle and on their way to Florida by 4:30 AM.

national aquarium animal rescue transport

Transport staff reported that the turtles were sporadically active throughout the drive, especially when driving over bumpy sections of road, or during windy conditions. While the turtles relaxed in their crates, our staff counted down the 755 miles that stood between them and their release destination!

The transport team arrived to the release point – Amelia Island – safely. After a release briefing, they quickly got to work unloading the turtles, opening the crates, and giving each turtle a brief final exam. Next came the fun part…releasing the turtles!

**Photos courtesy of Talbot Islands State Park staff!

The turtles wasted no time getting off the beach and back into their home water of the Atlantic Ocean! Some were a little faster than others, but they all eventually made their way to the water. Stinger, a green sea turtle, was the fastest into the water for the first group, and Goose, a Kemp’s ridley, was the fastest for the second group. Chipper, also a green sea turtle, ended up moving away from the water initially, but a staff member came to his assistance and got him back on track.

Release events are always a joyous time to reflect on the impact we’re having on endangered sea turtles. We’re quite literally giving these turtles a second chance at life, and a second chance to help restore their declining populations. You can help support the sea turtle rehabilitation efforts of Animal Rescue by making a monetary donation, or an in-kind donation from our Amazon Wish List!

Stay tuned for more updates on our remaining sea turtle patients! 

Animal Rescue Expert

Did you know? Today is Manatee Appreciation Day!

Sometimes called sea cows, manatees are a large, but graceful, endangered species that thrive in warm-water environments ripe with vegetation. The West Indian manatee, one of three living species, can be spotted off the coast of Florida year round.

manatee

Here are ten things you may not know about manatees! 

  1.  Manatees are a migratory species, sometimes traveling up the East Coast in the warmer summer months—some have even been spotted in Maryland.
  2. These herbivores feed on patches of vegetation on the sea floor and can eat up to 1/10 of their body weight in just one day!
  3. With a diet sometimes rich in sand, Manatees’ teeth are made for grinding, not biting, and are constantly being replaced.
  4. Some waterways in Florida have manatee “speed zones” to protect these gentle creatures from boat collisions, one of the leading causes of injury and death in manatees.
  5. Manatees’ closest living relatives are elephants and hyraxes, small mammals found in Africa and the Middle East.
  6. Slow moving, manatees typically travel at about 5 miles per hour but have been known to swim faster in short bursts.
  7. Some manatee species can travel freely between salt and freshwater.
  8. Manatees have to visit the surface for air, but can stay underwater for up to 20 minutes while at rest.
  9. Manatee calves are dependent on their mothers for up to two years. When a calf is born, its mother must help it to the surface for air, but most can swim on their own shortly after birth.
  10. It is believed that the legendary “mermaids” spotted by sailors throughout history were actually manatees.

Being the gentle, slow-moving animals that they are have put manatees at risk of extinction in the face of oil spills, increased motorboat traffic and entanglement. These animals were first listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1967 and their population numbers have increased in recent years, but there is still much work to do protect manatees and the habitats they depend on.

To learn more about how to get involved in manatee conservation efforts in here in the United States, click here

Thoughtful Thursday: The Endangered Species Act Turns 40

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) was enacted by Congress in December of 1973. Its goal is to provide protection for species that are endangered or threatened and conserve the habitats their survival depends upon.

A species is considered endangered if it is in danger of extinction throughout all or significant portion of its range and threatened if it is likely to become an endangered species in the near future. Currently, there are over 2,000 species listed under the ESA. The efforts to protect these animals are administered by two federal agencies: the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Zoos and Aquariums, including the National Aquarium, work closely with these agencies to both conserve habitats and raise public awareness of these species. Their continued survival is a large part of our organization’s mission. Here are just a few of the threatened/endangered species that call the Aquarium home:

In the last few decades, the Act has successfully prevented the extinction of 99 percent of the species it protects – making it one of the most effective conservation laws in our nation’s history! Check out this video looking back on the last 40 years of the ESA:

While there are many successes we should be celebrating today, there’s still a lot of work to be done in protecting species from decline and inspiring our next generation of conservationists.

Here’s how YOU can support our efforts to conserve and protect these amazing animals!

It’s Sea Otter Awareness Week!

This week is the annual recognition of some of the oceans’ cutest residents, sea otters!

sea otters

Did you know? Sea otters hold hands when sleeping so as to not float apart!

In celebration of the 10th anniversary of Sea Otter Awareness Week, here are ten fun facts about these incredible animals: 

  1. Sea otters sleep, eat, hunt, mate and give birth in the water! They’ll oftentimes use kelp or giant seaweed to anchor themselves nicely in groups.
  2. Their dense, water-repellent fur keep sea otters dry and warm!
  3. Sea otters hunt for their food on the seafloor, but always return to the surface when it’s time to eat.
  4. Floating on their backs, otters will oftentimes use their chests as tables. If the meal of the day is a mollusk or crab, the ever-resourceful otter will also use a rock to crack open its prey!
  5. Sea otter coats have “pockets!” They’ve been observed using the flaps of skin found under each front leg to stash prey during their dives.
  6. Sea otters can reach up to 4 feet in length!
  7. The average life span of a sea otter is 23 years.
  8. Sea otters are meticulously clean animals. They spend hours grooming their fur everyday!
  9. Considered a keystone species, sea otters are critically important to the health of coastline marine ecosystems! They prey upon sea urchins and other invertebrates that destructively graze on giant kelp. Kelp forests are home to a wide diversity of animals, help protect coastlines from storm surge and absorb vast amounts of carbon dioxide!
  10. Because they were regularly hunted for their fur, sea otters were in serious danger of extinction in the early 20th century – only approximately 2,000 were left in the wild. Their numbers have jumped up since being granted protection as an endangered species.

Help us celebrate Sea Otter Awareness Week by sharing your favorite otter fact in the comments section! 

Sawfish Granted Endangered Species Protection

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Earlier this month, the National Marine Fisheries Services granted sawfish protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

largetooth sawfish

Sawfish are one of the most, if not the most, imperiled groups of cartilaginous fish. Like most sharks and rays,  late maturity and low reproduction rates make these animals vulnerable to over-exploitation. Additionally, their toothed “saw” often gets caught in fishing gear and nets, making them susceptible to bycatch. As a result of these threats, populations of sawfish have reportedly declined by as much as 99 percent in recent decades.

All seven recognized species of sawfish are considered critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).  Nationally however, earlier petitions to grant sawfish similar protection under the ESA have not been successful. The first listing, of the smalltooth sawfish, occured in April of 2003. The largetooth sawfish was listed under the ESA in August of 2011. With the freshwater and largetooth species recently being synonymized, all are now protected under the ESA, including the two living here at the Aquarium.

largetooth sawfish

One of the largetooth sawfish that live in our Shark Alley exhibit.

The designation to list all species of sawfish is a positive step forward for these animals. The hope is that through collaboration with other aquariums, research biologists, conservation groups and NGOs we can assist in the recovery of sawfish populations worldwide.

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