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Virginia Living Museum Loggerhead Sea Turtle Returns to the Wild

The Virginia Living Museum’s (VLM) Loggerhead Sea Turtle, Coco, is being safely transported back to the North Carolina Aquarium for release into the Atlantic Ocean south of Manteo, NC.

Thursday morning, November 2, 2017, at 9:30 a.m., aquarists will guide Coco into a bin at the top of the exhibit and move her behind the scenes where she will be prepped for transport to the North Carolina Aquarium.  Aquarists/Coco’s caretakers, Patrycja Lawryniuk and Britt Sorensen, will be driving Coco to Roanoke Island. The turtle will then be transferred to Beaufort, NC, on Friday for release into the Atlantic Ocean on Saturday.  Ms. Lawryniuk stated, “This is an exceptional animal, and I’m so glad Coco will be returning to its natural habitat.”

Coco, who has grown from 7.6kg to over 40kgs (over 90lbs.) and has been at the VLM since July 8, 2015, is part of a Sea Turtle Loan Program.  The Virginia Living Museum has exhibited Loggerhead Sea Turtles for many years and has displayed several loggerheads through the Sea Turtle Loan Program at the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores. Juvenile sea turtles are acquired from nests in southern North Carolina and then raised for several years in captivity before being tagged and released into the Atlantic Ocean.

The Virginia Living Museum collaborates with the North Carolina Aquariums to care for and raise juvenile loggerhead sea turtles, Caretta caretta. Each year female loggerheads make their way ashore to nest along the beaches of coastal North Carolina. These nests are federally protected and continuously monitored by a network of volunteers and institutions to ensure the maximum number of hatchlings survive. Healthy hatchlings are protected from predation by the observers, but otherwise left to make their way into the sea on their own, while weak or disoriented hatchlings are collected to be nursed back to health at the North Carolina Aquariums and their partner institutions.

The vast majority of the hatchlings that are collected are released as soon as they are healthy and strong enough to survive in the wild, while a few of these turtles remain on public display at the N.C. Aquariums or their partner facilities, including the Virginia Living Museum. Each of these living ambassadors helps to educate the public and inspire conservation efforts to ensure the survival of their species, all the while growing large enough to fend off virtually any natural predator by the time of their release.

The Virginia Living Museum has released several turtles back into the wild as part of the Sea Turtle Loan Program.

You can follow the journeys of sea turtles around the world on this website seaturtle.org.  Read about our Sea Turtle Tag & Release Program.

The Loggerhead Sea Turtle is one of the largest reptiles found on earth today. Listed as a threatened species, it faces the same threats as other sea turtles: heavy exploitation for its meat, eggs, shells and oil and from being entangled in shrimp nets, gill nets and on the hooks of long lines.

Aquarists, Patrycja Lawryniuk and Britt Sorensen, will be returning to the VLM with a much smaller loggerhead Thursday evening, November 9.  This new loggerhead will be quarantined and given some time to be trained to target feed and adjust to having very large tank-mates before going on exhibit.

For more information, go to the VLM website https://thevlm.org/explore/conservation/wildlife/  or call 757-595-1900.  The Museum is located at 524 J. Clyde Morris Blvd., Newport News, I-64, exit 258A.

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