NORWALK, Conn. – Visitors can follow a rescued baby loggerhead sea turtle through its first year of life at The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk.
The aquarium is raising it in a new “Sea Turtle Nursery” exhibit that opened this weekend.
The turtle will be released into the Atlantic Ocean next fall.
The guest sea turtle is living at The Maritime Aquarium as part of a loan program of the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores.
The staff and volunteers there inspect turtle nests on beaches to look for “stragglers” – newly hatched turtles that, for various reasons, didn’t make it out of nests. These young turtles are rescued and then 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 will 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 hatchling turtle – only about 3 inches long at first – 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” opened Oct. 21 and is free with Aquarium admission.
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