As most head for the open ocean when they emerge from their sandy nests, some sea turtle hatchlings are detoured to the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher for health concerns. On Wednesday, October 15, the Aquarium released three loggerhead sea turtles that were rescued last summer.
The loggerheads were part of an interactive exhibit, Let’s Talk Turtle, which features a loggerhead hatchling and a replica of a nest with newly hatched turtles starting their run to the ocean.
Due to human pressures and other factors, all sea turtles that frequent North Carolina waters are listed as threatened or endangered. The NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher annually cares for many hatchlings suffering from injury, weakness or cold weather. The Aquarium releases all sea turtles that recover at the facility, most as soon as they are strong enough to face life in the wild. A few stay a little longer on exhibit as part of the Aquarium’s educational efforts.
Let’s Talk Turtle is a learning station that puts visitors face to face with a juvenile loggerhead sea turtle, and gives them a chance to ask questions.
“Assigning a ‘turtle talker’ really adds value,” said Education Curator Peggy Sloan, who helps train volunteers and staffers for duty in the booth. “Loggerheads are a threatened species,” explained Sloan, “and by helping people understand them we’re increasing their odds for survival.”
The loggerheads are rotated at the exhibit daily. Their diet is adjusted and modified consistently to ensure proper bone and shell growth. Weekly length and weight measurements help track growth. Quarterly blood tests performed by veterinarians from NC State University and daily sunbathing ensure calcium is properly absorbed and the turtles are healthy.
Three one-month-old hatchlings are now on display in the exhibit. The hatchlings were obtained by the Pleasure Island Sea Turtle Project from a Kure Beach nest disturbed by Tropical Storm Hanna.
The Aquarium works closely with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, who manages sea turtle permitting, monitoring and rescue efforts on the state’s beaches.
Photo: My, how you’ve grown: a one month and one year old loggerhead sea turtle.