Posts Tagged 'sea turtle conservation'

We’re Ready to Release Our 100th Animal!

Animal Rescue Update

The 2012 cold-stun season for sea turtles in New England broke records. National Aquarium’s Animal Rescue team helped out our colleagues at the New England Aquarium by admitting 13 sea turtles for rehabilitation last December. We transported several turtles to Florida for long-term rehab and release in January, and several more for release to Florida in April.

We currently have four remaining turtles in our rehab center: two Kemp’s Ridleys (Duckie and Bender), a green (Willard), and a loggerhead (Rooney). We are very excited to announce that three of the four turtles are ready for release!

Any release is a cause for celebration, but this release is extra special, as we’ll be celebrating the release of our 100th animal! Actually, Duckie, Bender and Willard will represent our 100, 101 and 102 animals released! Since 1991, National Aquarium Animal Rescue has been responding to stranded marine mammals and sea turtles found along the Delmarva Peninsula (which encompasses Delaware, Maryland and Virginia).

In the last twenty years, our team has cared, rescued, treated and released a variety of species to their natural habitats, including: seals; sea turtles; rough-toothed dolphins; a harbor porpoise; a pygmy sperm whale; and a manatee. Each of these animals has an incredible story, and there is no better triumph than returning a healthy animal to the wild! You can read some of these stories on our website.

We’re excited to announce that our 100th release will be open to the public. Find out more details below:

National Aquarium 100th Rescue Animal Release

Saturday, June 22
4:00 pm EST

Point Lookout State Park in Scotland, MD
The release will occur at the Swimming Beach
Normal park entrance fees will apply

Join our National Aquarium Animal Rescue team as we release three turtles: two Kemp’s Ridley’s (Duckie and Bender) and a green (Willard).

Staff from the National Marine Life Center will also be on-site to release four rehabilitated sea turtles!

Sea turtles utilize the Chesapeake Bay as a source of food during the summer months. The two Kemp’s ridley’s and the green sea turtle that we will release this Saturday will likely remain within the Bay for the rest of the summer before migrating south in the fall. The loggerhead will remain in rehabilitation for long-term treatment of a chronic medical issue and will be released at a later date.

We hope you can join us to say farewell to Duckie, Bender, and Willard!

If you’re not able to join us on the beach, be sure to follow me on Twitter  for live updates, and leave your well-wishes for the trio in the comments below.


Diane Rehm’s Environmental Outlook: Jellyfish And The Health Of The Ocean


Earlier today, I spoke to NPR’s Diane Rehm about jellies and the impact that jellyfish population increases and expansion of some species’ geographic ranges are having on the health of our oceans.

Jack Cover at Diane Rehm show

With Bill Dennison and Diane Rehm at NPR.

Jellyfish first appeared around 560 million years ago (long before the time of dinosaurs). They’re 95 percent water, have no brains and no bones and no heart or blood, yet these gelatinous animals are among the worlds’ most resilient organisms.

The jellies simple body plan has remained relatively unchanged. But lately some scientists are concerned the animals are thriving too well – overrunning marine ecosystems, forcing nuclear power plants to shut down and filling the nets of commercial fisherman and shutting down fisheries around the world.

Some of the jellyfish species on exhibit here at the Aquarium.

Jellyfish species from top left (clockwise): blue blubber jelly, upside down jelly, spotted lagoon jelly, Leidy’s comb jelly

There are both ecological human-related issues causing an “explosion” of jellyfish populations around the world.

  • Over the years, climate change has raised the average temperature of the ocean. While this rise has negatively impacted organisms like coral, warm season jellies start breeding earlier and have longer active seasons.
  • Human activities, such as the over-fertilization of our lawns and farms, results in a runoff of excesses of nutrients into the Chesapeake Bay and ocean. This results in what’s known as an algal bloom. When the algae absorbs all of this nutrient run-off, it dies. Bacteria then feeds on the dead algae and removes all dissolved oxygen from the water – this process is called eutrophication and produces “dead zones.” Fish and crabs perish in these dead zones, but not the resilient jelly. Jellyfish can survive with low oxygen levels!
  • Jellyfish are opportunistic feeders. When food, like zooplankton, is abundant, they will grow rapidly and reproduce at a rapid rate. Excessively large jellyfish populations can out compete young fishes that also feed on zooplankton.
  • Some scientists speculate that the reproduction of jellyfish predators may also be giving jelly populations a boost. For example, all seven species of sea turtle will opportunistically feed on jellyfish when they are encountered. The largest species of sea turtle, the leatherback, feeds almost exclusively on jellies. Pacific populations of leatherbacks are currently at about 7 percent of their historic population levels. Human activities are the cause of sea turtle population declines. Overfishing has reduced fish populations that also feed on jellies.

To listen the full “Environmental Outlook” segment on Diane Rehm’s show, click here

Jack Cover

Thoughtful Thursdays: Endangered Species Spotlight on Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtles

Endangered Species Day, celebrated on May 17th, was established to raise awareness of the issues (both human-related and ecological) facing endangered species and their habitats. 

To help further amplify this day, we’ll be highlighting some endangered species that can be found in our home state of Maryland, at the National Aquarium and around the world! Our hope is that as this week progresses, others will feel inspired to help us protect these amazing animals! 

Animal Rescue Update

Kemp’s ridley Lepidochelys kempii sea turtles are the smallest of all the sea turtle species and are listed as “critically endangered” by the IUCN. “Small” is a relative term for sea turtles, as the Kemp’s can weigh as much as 80 to 100 pounds as adults, and their shell can grow to about 2 feet long. Their carapace (top shell) is usually heart-shaped and brown to grey in color.

kemp's ridley

A rehabilitated Kemp’s ridley turtle being released by National Aquarium staff.

Kemp’s ridley’s are highly migratory and seasonal visitors to Maryland waters. They can often be found in coastal areas, including the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic coast, from late May to October. While here, they feed on an assortment of crabs, shellfish and jellies, and will occasionally munch on seaweed. Cooler water temperatures in the fall signal the turtles to migrate south – reptiles are ectothermic, meaning their internal body temperature is dependent on the water temperature.

kemp's ridley

One of our current rehabilitation patients munching on a blue crab.

Along the northeast and mid-Atlantic in late fall and early winter, Kemp’s can become victims of cold-stunning. Cold-stunning is effectively hypothermia (low body temperature), which causes the turtles to stop eating and ultimately become severely sick. The 2012 cold-stun season was a record for the northeast. We currently have two Kemp’s ridley sea turtles in rehabilitation with our National Aquarium Animal Rescue team, and both were admitted as cold-stuns.

kemp's ridley

Since being listed as an Endangered Species in 1994, the US and Mexico have worked cooperatively to protect critical nesting habitats for the Kemp’s, resulting in an increase in successful nesting and hatching. Kemp’s still face many threats, though, many of which are human-related. The good news is that YOU can help protect Kemp’s ridley sea turtle populations!

Stay tuned for more features on endangered species this week! 


Animal Rescue Update: Loggerhead Hatchling Scheduled for Release!

National Aquarium’s Animal Rescue team has just received word that the loggerhead hatchling we rescued in October has passed his exit exam and will be released off the coast of North Carolina tomorrow (weather permitting)!

The loggerhead hatchling during it's exit exam earlier today!

The loggerhead hatchling during it’s exit exam earlier today!

First discovered on Assateague Island National Seashore just days before Hurricane Sandy, our team rescued and began caring for this loggerhead sea turtle hatchling. This was the first time our team had ever spotted a viable sea turtle hatchling on Maryland shores and the youngest turtle patient we’ve ever had at the Animal Care Center. Once it was deemed strong and healthy enough, the hatchling was transported to North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores for further care.

We’re so thrilled that this little guy has continued to grow and is now ready to be released back into the ocean!

Stay tuned for a re-cap of his release!

Thoughtful Thursdays: Inspiring Conservation in Future Generations

This week, National Aquarium is co-hosting the 33rd annual International Sea Turtle Symposium, which has brought together more than 1,000 scientists and conservationists from over 75 countries to discuss collaborative efforts to save all seven species of endangered sea turtle.

Currently, turtle populations worldwide are in dramatic decline due to issues like habitat destruction, cold-stunning, debris entanglement, incidental capture in commercial and recreational fishing.  The symposium is a tool to share knowledge and encourage discussion around sea turtles in our local community and how we create and/or affect these issues. This meeting provides Baltimore and the state of Maryland with a rare opportunity to participate in an international dialogue and gain exposure to new pathways in conservation science.

As part of our co-hosting duties, symposium participants were invited to visit the Aquarium for a Welcome Social earlier this week.

General Curator Jack Cover was on hand during the Aquarium’s “Welcome Social” for symposium participants to talk about the many species of turtle we have in our collection.

The theme of the symposium is “connections” and throughout the week, they hope to create connections not only with fellow researchers and conference attendees but also with the community and local students.

To encourage involvement, the symposium is providing teacher and educator workshops, live streaming of special sessions to local schools and universities as well as a sea turtle art contest in Baltimore City schools.

The art contest in particular is a powerful way to reach students and encourage them to express their love for sea turtles. Further, it presents an innovative avenue to reinforce the community’s need to respect and save these majestic creatures. Each school submitted art pieces in the hopes of winning an opportunity to learn more about the importance of turtles at special expert Q&A sessions at the symposium. The following local schools have their art featured at the symposium:

  • St. Demetrius Bilingual Day School
  • Poolesville High School
  • South River High School
  • Furman Templeton Prep
  • Dr. Rayner Browne Academy
  • Friends Meeting School

One local school in particular, St. Demetrius Bilingual Day School, took this art project a step further! Students did a month-long science unit on sea turtles leading up to the week of the event. During their visit to the symposium, students had lunch with biologists and conservationists and even took a trip to the Aquarium!

After learning even more about sea turtles, 4th and 5th grade classes at St. Demetrius were inspired to actually adopt a turtle at the Aquarium through our Aquadopt program!

Want to learn more about the dialogue happening at the symposium or the Aquarium’s efforts to save sea turtles? Leave us your questions in the comments section!

You can also join the conservation on Twitter (for symposium-specific news, follow the hashtags #ISTS33 and #ISTS2013).

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