After a full day of travel on December 20, this baby Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta) touched down in Monterey, California, around 10 p.m. Steve Vogel, the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Husbandry Curator who accompanied the little turtle on its journey, brought it immediately to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, where it went straight into the water behind the scenes.
The next morning, Veterinarian Dr. Mike Murray examined the hatchling. At just four months old, it weighs almost half a pound (0.22 kg), and its shell measures about 4.4 inches (11.2 cm) long and 3.4 inches (8.7 cm) across. The turtle passed the exam, but is being keep it behind the scenes until after Christmas to acclimate to a regular feeding routine.
This Loggerhead is one of nine on loan to various U.S. zoos and aquariums from the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores. They were late hatchlings that didn’t make it to the water with their nest-mates. All of them were rescued from nests on North Carolina beaches and will eventually be returned to the wild. This little turtle will stay at the Monterey Bay Aquarium for as long as two years before its return release back in North Carolina.
This new turtle will serve an important role during it’s stay, acting as an ambassador for its species. The Aquarium will make it the focal point of an exhibit that highlights the threats facing sea turtles and other ocean animals from unsustainable fishing practices. In the wild, sea turtles often die when they’re accidentally caught in fishing gear, primarily in trawls and longlines. sea turtles around the world also face deadly threats from ocean pollution – particularly plastic debris.
Since the turtle eventually will be released back into the wild, the aquarists will take a “hands-off” approach and not hand-feed it or spend more time with it than necessary, though they will continue to keep track of the hatchling’s weight through routine exams.