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In June we welcomed a new loggerhead sea turtle into the 30,000-gallon Noland Chesapeake Bay Aquarium. The sea turtle joins a variety of other native Virginia species including a sandbar shark. The Museum is asking the community to assist in giving the sea turtle an official name.
The community was polled for name suggestions and ultimately voted for the name GINGERSNAP!
The newest sea turtle was born September 19, 2015 and was found at Emerald Isle, North Carolina. The sea turtle was admitted to the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores program as a straggler hatchling on September 22, 2016 and then transferred to the Virginia Living Museum November 2, 2017 and was held behind the scenes. The target weight for introducing new sea turtles to the Chesapeake Bay Tank is approximately 25 lbs. The newest turtle came to the Museum at around 15 lbs. and after reaching 33 lbs in June was put on exhibit. The newest sea turtle is still too young to determine its gender; loggerheads don’t sexually mature until they are at least 15 years of age and may live as long as sixty years and reach 400 lbs.
Museum staff attempts to mimic a wild loggerhead’s diet as closely as possible by feeding it locally and sustainably sourced fish, crustaceans, and mollusks augmented with calcium and multivitamins as well and a gel specifically designed for optimal nutrition. The loggerhead receives about 1% food to body weight daily.
When the VLM receives animals from other facilities, they undergo an initial quarantine period, during which they are weighed, measured, and monitored by the Museum’s vet. During this time, the turtle was target trained to feed at a particular place with a visual cue, in this case a small blue circle. This training helps ensure that staff can control the precise amount of food the turtle receives and provides them the opportunity to deliver any vitamins or supplements.
The Virginia Living Museum collaborates with North Carolina Aquariums to care for and raise juvenile loggerhead sea turtles that have been stranded or abandoned. The Museum then raises and displays the juvenile loggerheads in the Chesapeake Bay Tank until they are matured and ready for release back into the wild. These turtles along with many of their nest mates from other aquariums around the country are taken 25 miles offshore out of Beaufort, N.C., to the Gulf Stream where they are then released. Often turtles are fitted with a satellite tag to provide data regarding their movements and migratory behavior. These lightweight tags are attached to the turtles’ shells and transmit a signal each time the turtle’s surface, which indicates their exact location, but harmlessly fall off as their shells grow. Track movement of these turtles online.