The North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher welcomed the birth of three female Asian small-clawed otters Saturday, May 21. This overwhelming amount of adorable represents success in the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan®(SSP) Program. You can track the pups’ progress on the NCAFF blog, but we’ve gathered up some of the best pictures of the trio to date.
North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores
The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk is caring for a rescued Loggerhead Sea Turtle, during its first year of life, in a new “Sea Turtle Nursery” exhibit. The Aquarium is providing care for the baby in preparation for it being released into the Atlantic Ocean next fall.
The guest Sea Turtle will be living at The Maritime Aquarium as part of a loan program of the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores, whose staff and volunteers inspect turtle nests on beaches to look for “stragglers” (newly hatched turtles) that, for various reasons, didn’t make it out of nests.
According to staff, these young turtles are rescued and 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 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 newest hatchling is about five weeks old and only 3.5 inches long. The little Loggerhead 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” exhibit opened October 21 and is free with admission to The Maritime Aquarium.
For those unable to visit the Connecticut facility, staff will provide updates on the hatchling’s development and progress via The Maritime Aquarium’s website www.maritimeaquarium.org and Facebook page.
A new Loggerhead Sea Turtle hatchling recently splashed into his new temporary home in the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Open Sea gallery! The tiny turtle will stay at the aquarium for one to two years, while aquarists carefully rear it to a larger size and prepare it for release back into the ocean.
The North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores loans rescued turtles to aquariums around the country as a way to share the story of this endangered species, while the youngsters grow large enough for release. When they are ready, the turtles are flown back to North Carolina for release into their native waters.
In the wild, Loggerheads migrate long distances, so they’re particularly vulnerable to accidental capture by commercial fisheries. The turtles can become caught in shrimp trawler nets or entangled in long-lines.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium recently released its third Loggerhead back into the Atlantic, alongside other rescued reptiles from U.S. zoos and aquariums. To stay updated on the journey of the newly released juvenile loggerhead, who has logged nearly 600 miles in just over a week, follow #TravelingTurtle on Twitter and Instagram! And check out Monterey Bay Aquarium's tumblr to learn how aquariums and zoos across the country are working together to help this endangered species: http://montereybayaquarium.tumblr.com/post/131508274553/a-turtles-journey-home
Photo and Video Courtesy: Monterey Bay Aquarium
Information about the Sea Turtle Program from North Carolina Aquariums:
Coastal North Carolina is a nesting site for Loggerhead Sea Turtles (Caretta caretta), Green Sea Turtles (Chelonia mydas) and occasionally Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) and Kemp’s Ridley (Lepidochelys kempii) Sea Turtles.
Sea Turtles may live for several decades in the open oceans but their lives are most at risk during the first few minutes after they emerge from the nest. Nests deposited on the beach from May through August usually hatch at night from July through October. Hatchlings scramble quickly out of the nest and toward the ocean in a race for life against predators, disorienting light sources and other obstacles.
The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (WRC) oversees the monitoring of nests and hatchlings through an extensive network of volunteers and institutions, including the North Carolina Aquariums. Sometimes hatchlings are too weak to get to the ocean on their own or are found far from the ocean if they’ve become disoriented. These hatchlings are brought to the Aquariums for a brief period of care prior to being released into the wild. Hatchlings recuperate in a carefully controlled environment, where Aquarists ensure that the animals eat and demonstrate healthy activity such as diving.
Most of these post-crawl hatchlings are released immediately directly into the Gulf Stream offshore. Although detailed movements of juvenile Sea Turtles are not well known, it has been determined that they likely spend their first 15 to 20 years feeding and growing in warmer waters, such as the Gulf Stream, before they reach sexual maturity. It is estimated that one in 1,000 turtles will reach this stage.
North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores husbandry staff recently collected a total of six Horseshoe Crab hatchlings of varying sizes from nearby tidal areas.
Atlantic Horseshoe Crabs lay eggs 2,000 to 30,000 eggs, which hatch approximately 2 weeks later. Hatchlings stay in tidal areas for about a year before traveling into deeper areas of the ocean.
Despite their name, horseshoe crabs are actually more closely related to spiders than crabs.
These hatchlings will undergo a month-long quarantine before being included in the aquarium's invertebrate touch tanks.
Seven Bonnethead Shark pups are cruising the waters at the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores. Born in mid-November, the pups are thriving in a behind-the scenes tank at the aquarium.
Photo Credt: North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores
Bonnethead Sharks are the smallest of the Hammerhead Sharks. The purpose of their wide, shovel-like heads, known as cephalofoils, has been debated for decades. It is now believed that their flat heads, with eyes located on the outer edges, give them a very wide field of vision. Sharks in the Hammerhead family can see 360 degrees, meaning they can see to the front, to the sides, and behind themselves. The placement of the eyes also allows the Sharks to see above and below themselves as well.
Such a visual field is an advantage for any animal, allowing it to more easily spot predators and prey.
Bonnethead Sharks are found along the east and west coasts of North and South America. Adults are shy and harmless, growing three to five feet long. They are often seen swimming together in small groups.
See more photos of the pups below the fold.
Little Eno got off to a rough start when his mother was accidentally killed by a car in the spring of this year. Luckily, staff at the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores found him early enough to save him. Unlucky for the aquarists, raising a baby otter is a lot of work, requiring around the clock bottle-feeding until he was old enough for fish. Additionally, they had to teach him to swim and hunt. Now six months old, he loves to romp (but apparently still enjoys eating and sleeping).