Posts Tagged 'animal babies'



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.

Puffin chicks hatched in Sea Cliffs exhibit!

Just weeks ago, we welcomed two new puffin chicks to our Sea Cliffs exhibit!

Back in 2006, we were happy to report the first successful hatching of a puffin chick at the National Aquarium. The parents, Victor and Vixen, presented us with another healthy chick in 2010, later named Vinny.  On June 28, 2011, they hatched their third little puffin! The chick weighed 40 grams at the time of the hatch, and weighed 90 grams at 8 days old. This follows the weight pattern of his older brother.

Just a little over a week later, on July 6, first-time puffin parents Tex and Kingster hatched their own chick, making this the Aquarium’s first year for multiple puffin hatchings. This chick weighed 39.4 grams at the time of the hatch and 168 grams at 12 days old.

For the next several weeks, the young puffins will remain in their burrows while they are cared for by their parents. Visitors may see the parents bringing fish into the nest burrows, which are located in the far left side of the exhibit.

When they are about 45 days old, they should begin exploring life outside of the burrow and will be visible to the public. Check back here in the upcoming weeks for updates and naming opportunities!

Here is a video of the first chick being weighed just days ago:

Curious about what it takes to care for puffins? Be an early bird to the Aquarium on August 28 for a talk with one of our aviculturists, from 7:45–9 a.m. Light breakfast fare will be provided. Cost: $30, includes Aquarium admission. Member price: $8. Reserve your ticket by calling 410-727-3474.

A salute to Jimmy & Teddy

This Presidents’ Day, join us in celebrating our two heads of state that are now residing in the Gray’s Reef exhibit at our Washington, DC, venue. Two adorable baby loggerhead sea turtles, named Jimmy and Teddy, came to their new temporary home in the nation’s capital from the North Carolina Aquarium, which is leading an effort to help rebuild sea turtle populations.

Jimmy and Teddy

The two turtles are named after presidents Jimmy Carter and Teddy Roosevelt. Roosevelt was well known for his conservation role while president; he greatly expanded the National Parks System. The National Aquarium’s freshwater gallery represents many of our National Parks today. Similarly, President Jimmy Carter designated Gray’s Reef, in the southeastern United States, as a National Marine Sanctuary. A Gray’s Reef exhibit is also represented at the Aquarium, and is the current home for the loggerheads.

Sea turtles have a challenging life. Weighing just 20 grams at birth, they face many natural predators both on the sandy beaches where they are hatched and in the oceans where they will dwell when they get older. Loggerheads were once actively hunted for their eggs and meat, and still are in some places of the world. Because of their 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, we participate in the North Carolina Aquarium’s program that 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.

The turtles were hatched on September 1 in North Carolina, and were brought to the Aquarium in mid-November. They have already tripled their weight since they arrived! The turtles now weigh more than 350 grams each. It is estimated that they will weigh around 1,500 grams (a little over 3 pounds) by fall when they will be returned to North Carolina for release into the ocean. Eventually, these turtles could weigh up to 200 pounds!

Under the Aquarium’s care, the turtles are measured monthly and will undergo exams with X-rays and blood work at 6 months old and 1 year old. The staff is also monitoring their calcium levels to ensure healthy shell growth. They are pole fed by the staff, who have noticed that the turtles love to steal food from the fish. They are very quick and love diving to the bottom to pick up leftovers that the fish don’t eat.

Next time you are visiting Washington, DC, stop in to see our adorable heads of state, and salute two presidents who contributed so much to the conservation of some of the most precious habitats our great country has to offer!

Love is in the water

Over the years, many have met their mates at the National Aquarium – and we don’t just mean the animals! There is just something about this place that makes people fall in love. From visitors on first dates, to couples getting engaged or tying the knot in front of our exhibits, to staff members falling for each other, love is always in the air. But with more than 16,000 animals living at the Aquarium, love is also in the water!

In honor of the upcoming holiday we humans created to celebrate love, we thought it would be fun to share some tales of animal dating, er, mating at the Aquarium. It’s no secret that the dolphins at the National Aquarium like to reproduce. Since the dolphin pavilion opened in 1999, we’ve had 13 dolphin births. But dolphins aren’t the only animals at the Aquarium with routine mating habits.

The stingrays in our Wings in the Water exhibit are a busy bunch of animals! Over the last few years, dozens of cownose and southern stingray pups have been born in the exhibit. The southern stingrays were reproducing so quickly that the males had to be separated from the females! And apparently there is one female cownose ray that the males find particularly attractive.

And did you know male and female seahorses dance, change color and lock tails for a short swim during courtship? Talk about romantic! After mating, it is the male seahorses that become pregnant and rear the young. They are nature’s true Mr. Moms! Just last January, one of our male seahorses delivered a tiny group of babies into the world.

Frogs and toads do a song and dance to attract their mates! They were the first vocal land-dwellers that use voice almost exclusively to attract a mate. Each species has its own distinctive voice so females do not waste time following the call of another species. Once a female dart frog finds a singing male of her species, he stops singing and initiates a courtship dance! Some species spin in a circle, while others gently stroke the female’s back with his forelegs. If she accepts his advances, she will follow him to an egg-laying site.

Turtles have a ritual of their own. Many aquatic species of turtles are sexually dimorphic (when the male and female of a species look different) in size, and in some cases, males may be half the size of females. The smaller males often have to use elaborate courtship displays in order to romance the females. This could involve swimming ahead of the female and gently stroking her head and neck with the claws of his front feet, or bobbing his head up and down rapidly. We see these behaviors at the Aquarium between Australian red-faced side-necked turtles.

Perhaps the most unusual mating fact is found in the fishes! Some species of fish undergo a sex change as they grow so they can experience mating and reproduction as a male and a female! The California sheepshead, found in our Kelp Forest exhibit, begins life as a female with pink coloration. When it grows to a length of about 18 inches, it transforms into a male.

We should point out that most species of animals pair up with multiple mates throughout their lives, simply for reproduction purposes. But monogamy can exist in the animal kingdom! Our sweetest tale of animal mating at the Aquarium can be found in the Sea Cliffs exhibit. Like many species of birds, puffins are known to form pair bonds, and can remain in those bonds for life. That has certainly been the case for two young adult puffins living at the National Aquarium. It seems as though these two birds were made for each other…

Victor and Vixen came to the National Aquarium in April of 2004 with two other females. Victor had his choice of ladies, but it wasn’t long before he found a match in Vixen. They had their first egg in 2005 but it turned out to be infertile, which is common for many young couples. Just a year later, they had their first chick, Princess, who still lives at the Aquarium, and just last year they came together to raise their second chick, Vinnie. They are great parents. Last year they fed Vinnie so much that he became quite the chunker!

Though they will probably stay paired for life, these birds aren’t on cloud nine all year round. Puffins in the wild usually come together in pairs only to breed, and then separate until the next breeding season. Even though our birds live in the same area year round, the same rule applies. Come spring, Victor and Vixen will start staking their claim on their burrow (they always use the same one on the far left side of the exhibit) by chasing the other birds away!

On any given day you could catch a glimpse of animals mating at the Aquarium. We sure have! Years ago our video team was able to capture amazing footage of two seahorses completing their mating process. What you’ll see below is a quick glimpse of how a female seahorse transfers eggs to the male!

Name our puffin chick!

At just 2 months old, our male puffin chick is looking more and more like the adult puffins each day! It is now time to give him a proper name. With the help of Aquarium staff and the public, we have narrowed down the suggestions to five solid puffin names. It is now up to our friends and followers to NAME THAT PUFFIN!

Cast your vote today! Voting will close on Tuesday, September 7, at 11:59 p.m. EDT. The puffin’s new name will be revealed live on WMAR Ch. 2 News on September 9.

TEXT your favorite name choice to 30644 (msg and data rates may apply), or vote online below:

Want to learn more about puffins? Join us for Morning With the Puffins: Curator Talk on September 25 from 7:45-9 a.m.

Explore our newly renovated puffin exhibit and learn more about its feathered occupants during a morning talk with one of our respected curators. Light breakfast fare will be provided and is included in the price. Reservations are required. Please call 410-727-3474 to make reservations. The cost is $8 for members and $30 for non-members (includes admission). Children under 3 are free.

Check out a video of the chick when he was just a tiny hatchling:


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