Posts Tagged 'turtles'



Thoughtful Thursdays: The Nature of Learning

In early May, the Aquarium Conservation Team (ACT!) spent two days at Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge engaging students in activities focused on climate change and its effects on the diamondback terrapin.

Partnering with staff from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, students were led through activities including a wetland planting promoting terrapin habitat, a GPS scavenger hunt to illustrate field monitoring techniques, and a nature walk along the butterfly garden, surveying the local bird population.

Prior to this field trip, Aquarium staff visited the students in their classrooms as part of an introduction to climate change, as well as terrapin characteristics and husbandry. Schools selected to participate are part of the Aquarium’s Terrapins in the Classroom program, a head-start program in which students care for and observe a newly hatched terrapin they will ultimately release into natural habitat at the end of the school year.

All activities were made possible through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Nature of Learning grant. The Nature of Learning grant encourages educators to “use National Wildlife Refuges as outdoor classrooms to promote a greater understanding of local conservation issues.”

In all, the Aquarium engaged more than 100 students in climate change activities, while educating students on how to be stewards of the Chesapeake Bay.

You can too! The Aquarium offers habitat restoration opportunities to promote a healthy Bay. Sign up for one of our free events today! Together our actions and awareness will create a healthy environment for Maryland’s state reptile, the diamondback terrapin.

A new rehab area for rescued sea turtles

Greetings from the Marine Animal Rescue Program (MARP)! Usually around this time of year we would be sharing stories of rescued animals that are in our care here at the National Aquarium; however, with the mild winter that we had here in the Mid-Atlantic region, staff have not received many calls about animals in need of our help. That does not mean that the staff has been on an extended vacation, though…

In preparation for the “turtle season,” the Aquarium’s MARP staff and Animal Care Center (ACC) staff have been working alongside contractors to get the new sea turtle rehabilitation area up and running. That’s right — the NEW sea turtle rehab area is now complete and ready for its first patient, and MARP is ready to answer those calls for help!

The Animal Care Center is an off-site facility where animals clearing quarantine are held before entering an exhibit, and where wild animals in need of rehabilitation stay. Making sure that the quarantine protocols were followed during this transition has been the biggest step, as there are shared spaces that all staff use, including the kitchen areas. Several precautions were adjusted or added so that all animals remain safe and healthy during their stay at the ACC.

With the help of Andrew Pulver, Darius Hunter, and the ACC staff, the transition has been a huge success, with all equipment in place and the new pool systems up and running smoothly! Currently, the MARP team is keeping a close eye on the water temperatures, to make sure that the new pools are going to be in the proper temperature range for the turtles that we normally take in this time of year. The temperature range that we typically keep for rehabilitation purposes is between 77° and 86°F, and we also keep at least one pool at a lower temperature to mimic the current ocean temperatures. These fluctuations are monitored continually throughout the off-season, even when we don’t have turtles in rehab.

So while there are still a few minor details to work out as far as equipment is concerned, staff members are eager to find and develop new enrichment ideas for the new pools’ large front windows.

Until then, just remember that if you are out on the water this spring and summer, keep your eye out for marine wildlife in our area. It is around this time that we see different animals migrating through our local waters, as the Chesapeake Bay acts as a thoroughfare for several ocean species. Animals that the MARP team usually sees include sea turtles and seals. While sea turtles will generally stay in the water, they do surface for breaths of air, so be careful if out on a boat. Boat strikes are an unfortunately common cause of marine animal injury.

As for seals, this time of year brings them warm sunshine as they pass along the Eastern Shore, so basking areas such as local boat ramps/docks, small islands off the coast, and even public beaches make good haul-out locations for these animals. The MARP team just asks that you keep your distance, as they can be aggressive if approached, and please call the Aquarium’s stranding hotline at 410-373-0083 to let us know if you see one in our area! Healthy or not, we would love to know when these animals are starting to venture along the Maryland coastline.

National Aquarium Featured on FOX 5

This past week, FOX 5 featured our Reptile and Amphibian Day! Check out reporter Annie Yu as she joins us at our Washington, DC, location for some fun animal interactions!

Although the event was held this past Saturday, February 25, you can come see these interesting reptiles and amphibians (plus sharks!) every day!

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Anna the loggerhead turtle goes home

We’re happy to announce that the loggerhead turtle that was admitted to the National Aquarium for rehabilitation late this summer was released this week!

The Ocean City Beach Patrol officer who saved her and carried her to shore—on a boogie board!—had the honor of naming her, and he chose “Anna.” MARP staff is amazed at how far this turtle has come in just a few months. When she arrived, she was severely emaciated and covered with a heavy barnacle load, and could barely swim. Now she’s a healthy, active turtle with a big appetite!

Staff from the Virginia Aquarium Stranding Response Program released Anna, along with a loggerhead that underwent rehab there and four yearling head-start loggerheads from the Virginia Aquarium. All the turtles were released from a vessel off the coast of North Carolina, where water temperatures are warm enough this time of year to support sea turtles.

This is a great example of how aquariums and stranding response facilities work together to attain common goals and give sick and injured animals a second chance at life. A big thanks to MARP volunteers and our partners at the Virginia Aquarium Stranding Response Program!

MARP depends on the generosity of volunteers to operate, but medical equipment, medications, and food for caring for these animals is expensive. Your gift makes it possible to continue this important work.  Donate to MARP »

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!


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