The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk is caring for a rescued Loggerhead Sea Turtle, during its first year of life, in a new “Sea Turtle Nursery” exhibit. The Aquarium is providing care for the baby in preparation for it being released into the Atlantic Ocean next fall.
The guest Sea Turtle will be living at The Maritime Aquarium as part of a loan program of the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores, whose staff and volunteers inspect turtle nests on beaches to look for “stragglers” (newly hatched turtles) that, for various reasons, didn’t make it out of nests.
According to staff, these young turtles are rescued and raised for a year at loan institutions, such as The Maritime Aquarium, before being returned to North Carolina the following fall for release into the Gulf Stream.
Tom Frankie, director of Exhibits for The Maritime Aquarium, said, “Aquarium staff repeat the process each October: travel to North Carolina to release a year-old Loggerhead and then bring a new hatchling back to Norwalk.”
The newest hatchling is about five weeks old and only 3.5 inches long. The little Loggerhead will live in a new habitat near the Aquarium’s exhibit that features two large Green Sea Turtles.
Loggerhead Sea Turtles (Caretta caretta) were named for their relatively large heads, which support powerful jaws that allow them to feed on hard-shelled prey, such as whelks and conch. They generally grow to weigh about 300 pounds and are found around the globe in nine “distinct population segments”: five of the populations are considered to be “Endangered,” and the other four, including the Loggerheads off the U.S. Atlantic Coast, are considered “Threatened.” Their biggest threats are from coastal development that destroys nesting habitats and from accidental capture in fishing gear.
“We are very excited to welcome this Loggerhead hatchling to the Aquarium,” Frankie said. “Besides the unique opportunity to give the turtle a safe environment for its first year, the exhibit also provides an important chance to talk about Sea Turtle conservation and to inspire our guests to support conservation efforts.”
The “Sea Turtle Nursery” exhibit opened October 21 and is free with admission to The Maritime Aquarium.
For those unable to visit the Connecticut facility, staff will provide updates on the hatchling’s development and progress via The Maritime Aquarium’s website www.maritimeaquarium.org and Facebook page.