About newportaquarium

Newport Aquarium was established in 1999. It is home to more than 10,000 aquatic animals representing some 600 species housed in tanks totally a million gallons in capacity. www.newportaquarium.com

Kentucky Field Trip: Newport Aquarium

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Awesome!

Originally posted on Faraway Farm:

On Margot’s actual birthday, a Thursday, Josh took the day off work and we drove up to the Newport Aquarium. It was extremely crowded but we had a great time. I cannot understand that seahorses are actual creatures and not a made up species. I could watch them all day.

Margot did a lot of pointing remained absolutely photogenic, as always, just look: Image

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Afterwards, we stopped by a huge Bass Pro Shops (for Josh) and Ikea (for me). It was a really good day. I’m so thankful for one year with Margot, she’s been the biggest and best blessing.

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A Touching Moment at Newport Aquarium’s Turtle Canyon

The Turtle Corral at Turtle Canyon

The Turtle Corral at Turtle Canyon

In case you did not hear the big news, Newport Aquarium’s newest exhibit Turtle Canyon opened to the public on Saturday, March 22!

In addition to Bravo, a 650-pound Galapagos tortoise and the Midwest’s largest turtle, and Thunder, a 118-pound and over 100-year-old alligator snapping turtle, one of the most distinctive features of Turtle Canyon is its Turtle Corral.

The Turtle Corral offers guests the unique opportunity to get up close and personal by touching a variety of turtles. On any given day, up to five species of turtles at a time can be found at the Turtle Corral.

Turtle Corral Touch Experience

The turtle species featured in the corral are:
African Spur Thigh tortoise – The third largest tortoise species in the world.
Gopher tortoise – A Flagship species for conservation and preservation of Longleaf Pine habitat in the Southeastern United States … one of four native tortoises to live in North America.
Leopard tortoise – The Leopard Tortoise is the fourth largest of the tortoise species and is considered vulnerable in parts of Central and South Africa due to consumption by the locals.
Red-footed tortoise – Medium-sized tortoise whose natural habitat ranges from Savannah to forest-edges around the Amazon Basin.
Yellow-footed tortoise – The third-largest mainland tortoise species, also found in the Amazon Basin of South America.

Red-footed tortoise

Red-footed tortoise

Don’t worry; we don’t have the same turtles in the corral every day. To ensure the turtles receive time away from the exhibit, a group of over 20 turtles are in the Turtle Corral rotation. This means guests can conceivably see different turtles at the corral practically every time they visit!

Like Newport Aquarium’s Shark Central and Shore Gallery touch experiences, guests are encouraged to employ the two-finger touch technique at the Turtle Corral.

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Two-finger touch technique

For the safety and well-being of both guests and turtles, the following rules have been established for Turtle Corral:

  1. Guests should only touch the turtles on their shells.
  2. Guest should refrain from touching a turtle’s legs, tail and/or head.
  3. Guests should never pick up or move a turtle.
  4. If a turtle is out of reach, it should not be picked up and moved. Please allow the turtle to have some “Time Out” time.
  5. Guests are strongly encouraged to use hand sanitizer before and after they are finished touching the turtles. Hand sanitizer is located all throughout Turtle Canyon, as well as the rest of the aquarium.

For guests with questions about the Turtle Corral, a trusty Newport Aquarium Animal Experience Specialist will be stationed nearby to answer them.

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We hope those who visit Turtle Canyon and experience the Turtle Corral come away with a greater understanding and appreciation for turtles of all species, which totals over 200 in the world.

Visit Newport Aquarium’s official blog – aquariumworks.org – to read #TurtleTuesday updates.

Bravo Relaxed and Comfortable in New Home at Turtle Canyon

A 650-pound Galapagos tortoise named Bravo, the star of Newport Aquarium’s newest exhibit Turtle Canyon, arrived in Northern Kentucky the evening of March 6 by way of Riverbanks Zoo and Garden in Columbia, S.C.

Bravo has adapted well to his new environment in the Bluegrass State after calling Riverbanks his home since the 90s.

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According to Newport Aquarium Biologist Michelle Fry, who is Bravo’s primary caretaker, it took him only a few days to come out of his shell (pun intended).

“Once he got used his new surroundings, he was very relaxed anytime people would come around,” said Fry.

If Bravo was nervous due to the move, it certainly did not show in his appetite. Within four days, the grass at Turtle Canyon was gone, as Galapagos tortoises are known for their constant grazing.

Three times a week, he is fed a bevy of lettuce, carrots, apples and Mazuri Tortoise Pellets, which add fiber and vitamins to his diet and serve as an extra water source.

Bravo digging into his dinner.

Bravo digging into his dinner.

While each day he can snack on hay, every other day Bravo additionally gets to eat a combination of cactus, romaine lettuce and dandelion greens.

Galapagos tortoises, which are listed as endangered by United States Fish and Wildlife Service, are the largest tortoises in the world, and with Bravo’s move to Newport Aquarium, he is officially the largest turtle in the Midwest.

Bravo finishes his meal. Someone needs a napkin.

Bravo finishes his meal. Someone needs a napkin.

Fry said Bravo at times enjoys being scratched by people, an instinct Galapagos tortoises possess in the wild when they allow birds to climb their shells and limbs to pick off insects. Bravo signals his eagerness for a good scratching by standing up tall and stretching out his neck and limbs.

For those with a chance to see Bravo in person, you ought to give it serious consideration. Pictures do not do any justice for this gentle giant. Turtle Canyon opens to the public on Saturday, March 22.

Here’s a little background information on Galapagos tortoises, according to arkive.org:

“The enormous Galapagos giant tortoise (Chelonoidis nigra) was once so numerous that Spanish explorers of the region named the Galapagos archipelago after its extraordinary inhabitant; ‘galapagos’ means ‘tortoise’ in Spanish.

“This giant reptile is the largest living tortoise, with relatively heavy limbs, a long neck and a heavy carapace that can reach lengths of up to 150 centimetres (4 feet, 11 inches). The different subspecies of the Galapagos giant tortoise illustrate the principal of ‘adaptive radiation’, where populations isolated on islands or on parts of larger islands within the Galapagos chain have adapted to different conditions, and now have distinct appearances. The subspecies can be generally separated into those with ‘domed’ shells, which occur on the larger, wetter islands, and smaller tortoises with ‘saddleback’ carapaces that are found on smaller islands with dry vegetation.

It is thought that the distinctive saddleback shell of some populations of the Galapagos giant tortoise enables its bearer to reach taller vegetation, with these tortoises also having longer limbs and necks.”

For those with a chance to see Bravo in person, you ought to give it serious consideration. Pictures do not do any justice for this gentle giant. Turtle Canyon opens to the public on Saturday, March 22.

Visit Newport Aquarium’s official blog – aquariumworks.org – to read #TurtleTuesday updates.

Alligator Snapping Turtle Thunder is a Newport Aquarium Mainstay

At more than 100 years old,  Thunder the alligator snapping turtle is the oldest animal at Newport Aquarium.

At more than 100 years old, Thunder the alligator snapping turtle is the oldest animal at Newport Aquarium.

If you came to Newport Aquarium when it opened to the public May 15, 1999, chances are you got to see our large alligator snapping turtle, graciously named Thunder.

If you’ve been to Newport Aquarium recently, chances are you’ve also spotted Thunder.

At more than 100 years old, not only is Thunder the oldest animal at Newport Aquarium, he’s also one of the original animals to go on display when we first opened.

Since the aquarium opened, Thunder has been in a tank near the Gator Alley exhibit. That is up until last week, when he was moved to the “Temple tank” at the new Turtle Canyon exhibit, which opens to the public March 22.

Alligator snapping turtles are one of the largest turtle species in North America. Across the U.S., populations of turtle species – including alligator snapping turtles – face a variety of environmental issues including water quality, habitat loss or degradation and hunting.

Saved from a butcher’s block, Thunder was rescued from a Louisiana market because of his large size. He moved to a turtle farm in Missouri before calling Newport Aquarium his home.

Due to both these natural and synthetic factors, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service lists alligator snapping turtles as an endangered species. These factors are also why it’s rare to see an alligator snapping turtle the size of Thunder in the wild.

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Thunder, like other alligator snapping turtles, is an ambush predator and prefers to hide and wait for his food to swim by. Then – SNAP – he catches it by surprise.

Newport Aquarium biologists describe Thunder as a picky eater, especially when it comes to mackerel. He gets fed roughly twice per week, but can go weeks without eating due to the low amount of calories needed.

Often you can find smaller fish swimming in the tank with Thunder as he awaits for a larger, more appetizing meal. If fish enter his tank small and grow to be medium-to-large sized, Thunder probably will not try to eat them. However, if you were to throw in a large bass into his tank, after an about hour chances are Thunder has taken a bite out of it.

One of the unique personality traits of Thunder is his penchant to practice yoga in the mornings; keepers often spot him stretching out his limbs first thing in the a.m.

Visit Newport Aquarium’s official blog – aquariumworks.org – to read #TurtleTuesday updates.

Newport Aquarium Named a Top-10 U.S. Aquarium by US City Traveler

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NEWPORT, Ky. – Newport Aquarium on Monday was named a top-10 United States aquarium by US City Traveler.

Newport Aquarium was ranked the No. 9 U.S. aquarium in an article written by US City Traveler’s founder Taylor Goldblatt, whose work has been featured by National Geographic, “The New York Times”, “Lonely Planet”, “The Washington Post” and Travel Channel.

US City Traveler’s top-10 ranking is the latest accolade Newport Aquarium has garnered over the years.

In October 2013, Travel Channel listed the Northern Kentucky destination as a top U.S. aquarium. In 2012, Newport Aquarium was voted the No. 1 aquarium in the 10Besties Readers’ Choice Travel Awards on the website 10best.com, a property of USA Today.

Newport Aquarium’s list of national honors kicked off in 2004, when it was voted the best aquarium in the Midwest in Zagat Survey’s U.S. Family Travel Guide.

NAQ_TurtleCanyon-Poster2014In its continuous efforts to provide guests with more new to see and do, Newport Aquarium will open its latest exhibit, Turtle Canyon, on March 22. Turtle Canyon will feature more than 14 turtle species from three continents, including two of the largest in the world: a Galapagos tortoise named Bravo, who at approximately 650 pounds is the biggest turtle in the Midwest; and Thunder, a more than 100-year-old, 118-pound alligator snapping turtle.

Bravo is a more than 600-pound Galapagos tortoise, the largest species of land turtle in the world. (Photo courtesy of Riverbanks Zoo and Garden)

Bravo is a more than 600-pound Galapagos tortoise, the largest species of land turtle in the world. (Photo courtesy of Riverbanks Zoo and Garden)

The new exhibit will also include a Turtle Corral, which will offer guests the unique opportunity to touch a variety of tortoises, including one of North America’s largest tortoise species, the Gopher tortoise.

For more information on Turtle Canyon, visit NewportAquarium.com or call toll free 800-406-FISH (3474).

Editor’s Note: The US City Traveler article mentions the old Rainforest exhibit, which has been replaced by Turtle Canyon. It also mentions white alligators, which are no longer on display at Newport Aquarium.

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 Newport Aquarium, the No. 1 aquarium in the country according to USA Today’s 10Best.com, showcases thousands of animals from around the world in a million gallons of water. Named a 2013 top U.S. aquarium by Travel Channel, Newport Aquarium is a Herschend Family Entertainment company and an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Newport Aquarium is open to the public 365 days a year and is located across the Ohio River from downtown Cincinnati at Newport on the Levee.

 Find us on: Facebook.com/NewportAquarium | Twitter: @NewportAquarium

One Aquarium Way | Newport, KY 41071 | 859-261-7444
www.newportaquarium.com

Operation Bravo: Mission Accomplished

Bravo in his new digs at Newport Aquarium.

Bravo in his new digs at Newport Aquarium.

By Alle Foster

Hello! My name is Alle Foster, and I am the Conservation Manager for the WAVE Foundation at the Newport Aquarium. I am with Ric Urban and Becky Echtenkamp from the Husbandry Department at the Newport Aquarium, and we are going on a very unique adventure over the next few days… and I am going to share it with you!

When we are at work, a lot of guests ask us, “How do you get the animals at the Aquarium?” or “Where do the animals come from?” It is definitely a good question, and many people don’t realize that a lot of the animals are “on loan” from other accredited zoos and aquariums around the United States, and sometimes we have to travel to pick up (or drop off) these different animals. So Ric, Becky and I are on a trip to Tennessee, Georgia, Florida and South Carolina to drop off, and pick up, some of our amazing animals. And of course we end the trip with picking up Bravo, the more than 600-pound, nearly 85-year-old Galapagos tortoise! Over the next few days we will be posting about our adventure and sharing all the fun and unpredictable aspects of our trip!

Operation Bravo: Part 1
Operation Bravo: Part 2
Operation Bravo: Part 3

Day 5: Finally heading home!
We started our day early by arriving at Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, S.C. It is always hard to go to another zoo or aquarium and pick up one of their most loved animals. The keepers at Riverbanks absolutely love Bravo, and we were worried that they were going to be upset that we arrived to get him. However, they were absolutely wonderful about the whole process. Yes, they were sad that we were coming to get him, but they also knew that we would take very good care of him.

Bravo lounging at Riverbanks Zoo.

Bravo lounging at Riverbanks Zoo.

The whole process to get him safely in the truck was tricky. We initially thought that we could have enough manpower to lift him into the crate while it was still sitting in the truck. However, we quickly learned that Bravo is STRONG and we didn’t want to risk having him twist or move in a way that could compromise his safety. So we took the crate out of the truck and tried to have him walk in. He was able to walk out of his exhibit, onto the zoo’s pathway, but began to go check out the zoo in the other direction. Ultimately what we learned from this is that it is very hard to get a 600-pound Galapagos tortoise to do what you want them to do. It took a lot of people to guide him in the right direction and to scoot him into his crate. PHEW! Once we got him in, though, it was easy to get the forklift to place him back in the truck. Then, we moved him into place, tied the crate down so it wouldn’t move during transport, and we talked with the keepers for a bit before getting back on the road.

Bravo with Riverbanks Zoo and Newport Aquarium staff. The crate was filled with hay to protect Bravo from sliding back and forth before the drive back to Newport.

Bravo with Riverbanks Zoo and Newport Aquarium staff. The crate was filled with hay to protect Bravo from sliding back and forth before the drive back to Newport.

Fun facts we learned about Bravo from the keepers:
• He LOVES carrots.
• He loves to be scratched. Sometimes you will see him stand up tall and stay perfectly still, and that means he would like to be scratched or cleaned. In the Galapagos, there are birds that would help clean the Galapagos tortoises by pecking at their necks and shells, and they stand very tall and wait for the birds to land on them. Sometimes Bravo shows this behavior and he will stand very tall and still for a while.
• He was a part of one of the last shipment of Galapagos tortoises to come from the Galapagos Islands.
• He stayed in Hawaii for a little while when he first arrived in the states.
• About 15 years ago, they did genetic blood work on him to see what subspecies of Galapagos he is, and he is confirmed as a Galapagos from the Santa Cruz Island.
• Bravo “might” be a father. They have had eggs hatch a couple years ago at the Riverbanks Zoo (and I have pictures of the babies), but there is another male on exhibit with Bravo, which could be the father instead. There are theories that female Galapagos tortoises actually prefer less-dominant males, and Bravo was the dominant male of the group.
• His last weight was around 650 pounds!
• He recognizes each keeper’s voice.

We still had one more stop before we could bring Bravo home… Knoxville Zoo! We had to pick up a couple new spider tortoises. So we stopped there for about 15 minutes, chatted with the keepers about their conservation efforts with their animals, and then got back on the road. We wish we could have stayed longer.

Our new spider tortoises from Knoxville Zoo! Woop woop!

Our new spider tortoises from Knoxville Zoo! Woop woop!

Everyone we have met along the way has been so helpful, interesting and welcoming, which makes it hard to get back in that truck! But we moved on and ended up making it back to Newport, Ky. by 8 p.m. Then we had to unload, which was a completely different experience. Luckily, we have some great staff who welcomed us home and helped get Bravo safely in his new home.

Come see Bravo when Turtle Canyon opens on March 22! Until then, our keepers here will be helping Bravo adjust to the Newport Aquarium.

Operation Bravo: Part 3

Ric with a spiny turtle at TSA

Ric with a spiny turtle at the Turtle Survival Alliance facility near Charleston, S.C.

By Alle Foster

Hello! My name is Alle Foster, and I am the Conservation Manager for the WAVE Foundation at the Newport Aquarium. I am with Ric Urban and Becky Echtenkamp from the Husbandry Department at the Newport Aquarium, and we are going on a very unique adventure over the next few days… and I am going to share it with you!

When we are at work, a lot of guests ask us, “How do you get the animals at the Aquarium?” or “Where do the animals come from?” It is definitely a good question, and many people don’t realize that a lot of the animals are “on loan” from other accredited zoos and aquariums around the United States, and sometimes we have to travel to pick up (or drop off) these different animals. So Ric, Becky and I are on a trip to Tennessee, Georgia, Florida and South Carolina to drop off, and pick up, some of our amazing animals. And of course we end the trip with picking up Bravo, the more than 600-pound, nearly 85-year-old Galapagos tortoise! Over the next few days we will be posting about our adventure and sharing all the fun and unpredictable aspects of our trip!

Operation Bravo: Part 1
Operation Bravo: Part 2

Day 4: St. Augustine, Fla. to Charleston, S.C. to Columbia, S.C.
Today was another great day on our “reptile road-trip!” We said goodbye to our friends at St. Augustine Alligator Farm, and they sent us away with four new crocodilians and some amazing coffee! (A special thanks to Kevin for the coffee! He definitely deserves a shout-out for that one!).

We were sooooooo grateful for good coffee.

We were sooooooo grateful for good coffee.

I really want to “gush” for a minute about the St. Augustine Alligator Farm. What an AMAZING place! They have all 23 species of crocodilians, they do amazing conservation work, and they have an amazing educational zoo/exhibits! Their institution is truly amazing and I highly encourage anyone and everyone to take a visit there at some point in your life. Definitely one of the best zoos I have ever visited (and I have visited over 25 different zoos and aquariums in the U.S.!). Anyway… I’m done “gushing” about them (for now).

We have been going non-stop since Sunday morning, and Becky said it best that “Bravo is going to be the 600-pound cherry on an amazingly busy few days!” Thursday morning we are arriving at Riverbanks Zoo to start the process of getting Bravo back to Newport Aquarium. I wish I could tell you all the game-plan for getting Bravo in his crate in the truck, but we really aren’t sure yet. We will have to analyze the surrounding area and weigh the pros and cons of a few different scenarios before we decide on the best, safest and easiest loading option. I am hoping to get some video of this process, so check back later for an update!

Wednesday evening we had the amazing opportunity to visit the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) facility near Charleston, S.C., which isn’t too far from the Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, S.C. The staff there was truly inspiring. They were some of the most passionate people who I have ever met, and I respect the work they do for turtle conservation. To give a little background on the TSA, they are an action-oriented global partnership that is committed to zero turtle extinctions in the 21st century.

TSA sign

Turtle Survival Alliance sign

To achieve this, the TSA:

• Creates breeding programs, including building facilities, for critically endangered freshwater turtles and tortoises
• Conducts field research
• Develops conservation plans and puts those plans into action
• Promotes conservation awareness among local communities
• Provides support, knowledge, training and resources to conservation partners around the world
• Advocates for greater enforcement of wildlife laws

Ric with turtle at TSA

Ric with a turtle at the Turtle Survival Alliance facility near Charleston, S.C.

The WAVE Foundation at the Newport Aquarium hopes to get involved with their work and help them achieve their mission of “zero turtle extinctions in the 21st century”.

Well, I am going to have to answer a question that keeps popping up from people who have been reading this blog… “Are we enjoying the Southern weather?” The answer is NO! It actually isn’t warm at all… We have been joking with each other this entire trip that we have brought the cold and the rain with us from Kentucky. Apparently, St. Augustine was 80 degrees and sunny the day before we arrived, but it was 40 degrees and raining while we were there … I guess it is better than the ice and snow that Kentucky got before we left, but we wanted everyone to know that we weren’t basking in the warm sun at all during this trip! Chattanooga, Tenn. was actually the warmest day that we had (at about 50 degrees)!

Cold weather photo. Notice the jackets, scarves, semi-damp hair and red faces! Brrr...

Cold weather photo. Notice the jackets, scarves, semi-damp hair and red faces! Brrr…

However, we still need to keep the truck at 100-degree temperatures to keep the back warm enough for the reptiles… so at least we have that warmth, right?

Operation Bravo: Part 2

Alle with a baby alligator.

Alle with a baby alligator.

By Alle Foster

Hello! My name is Alle Foster, and I am the Conservation Manager for the WAVE Foundation at the Newport Aquarium. I am with Ric Urban and Becky Echtenkamp from the Husbandry Department at the Newport Aquarium, and we are going on a very unique adventure over the next few days… and I am going to share it with you!

When we are at work, a lot of guests ask us, “How do you get the animals at the Aquarium?” or “Where do the animals come from?” It is definitely a good question, and many people don’t realize that a lot of the animals are “on loan” from other accredited zoos and aquariums around the United States, and sometimes we have to travel to pick up (or drop off) these different animals. So Ric, Becky and I are on a trip to Tennessee, Georgia, Florida and South Carolina to drop off, and pick up, some of our amazing animals. And of course we end the trip with picking up Bravo, the more than 600-pound, nearly 85-year-old Galapagos tortoise! Over the next few days we will be posting about our adventure and sharing all the fun and unpredictable aspects of our trip!

Operation Bravo: Part 1

Day 2 and 3: Atlanta and Valdosta, Ga. – and half of our mission in St. Augustine, Fla.
Hello again! Since we left a day early, that gave us more time on the road before sticking to our planned schedule. So we stopped at Zoo Atlanta on the way to Wild Adventures in Valdosta. I am quickly learning that Ric knows everyone in the Zoo/Aquarium industry! He has friends all over the United States, and those friends have been very good to us on this trip.

This is an indigo snake that was shown to us at Zoo Atlanta. This is one of their outreach animals.

This is an indigo snake that was shown to us at Zoo Atlanta. This is one of their outreach animals.

After a quick stop to visit the zoo and see some of the animals, we moved on to Valdosta where we unloaded all the animals into the hotel again and confirmed all the plans for the morning. We definitely get a lot of questions about “Why do you have so many coolers?” when we move the animals inside, but usually we are moving so fast and with determination that we never truly answer the question!  ;)

Most people don’t know that the Newport Aquarium is owned by a family company called Herschend Family Entertainment.

HFE sign that hangs at Wild Adventures in Valdosta, Ga.

HFE sign that hangs at Wild Adventures in Valdosta, Ga.

They are an amazing organization that owns many different entertainment properties around the United States, such as Dollywood, Ride the Ducks, Stone Mountain Park, etc. They also own Wild Adventures in Valdosta, Ga., which is the reason why we are here. Wild Adventures is the institution that is going to be taking our albino American alligators, Snowball and Snowflake. Ric wanted to stop by along the way talk to the future caretakers, see the enclosure options, and see if there was anything else that they needed from us to take the best care possible of the albino alligators.

This is one of the options for an exhibit space that our white gators might be moving to. A very tropical looking exhibit!

This is one of the options for an exhibit space that our white gators might be moving to. A very tropical looking exhibit!

The amazing thing about Herschend Family Entertainment is how connected each property is to one another. We not only share animals between the properties, but we also share ideas and help each other along the way. It truly is a family company! So, at Wild Adventures, we met up with a wonderful man named Chris Kilpatrick, who toured us around the park, showed us some great animals (such as their elephants, giraffe, rhino, deer, birds, big cats, etc.), and Ric and Chris talked and gathered a lot of information from each other. (Fun fact! Wild Adventures is closed for the winter, so it was fun walking through a “guest-free” theme/animal park! So we had the entire park to ourselves!)

Chris with his elephant at Wild Adventures in Valdosta, Ga.

Chris Kilpatrick with his elephant at Wild Adventures in Valdosta, Ga.

About halfway through our visit at Wild Adventures, Ric got a call from Billy from Gatorland. Gatorland is the institution that is going to be taking our two American Alligators, Bert and Ernie. Gatorland would have been a further trip for us, so they were able to meet us in Georgia to make things easier. So we met Billy in the parking lot, and he and Ric prepared the animals for the next step in their journey. Bert and Ernie were two of the animals that I used the most for educational programs for the WAVE Foundation at the Newport Aquarium, and everyone who ever had the opportunity to work with them, or show them to a group of guests, loved them. I made sure to quiz Billy about “What kind of exhibit will they be in?” and “When can I come visit?” I know Gatorland will take great care of our animals, but it never hurts to ask a few pointed questions!

We then continued on our journey to St. Augustine Alligator Farm in Florida, and we are all out of crocodilians!

Alligator farm sign is exactly what it is …

Alligator farm sign is exactly what it is …

We dropped off the last three animals (the tomistoma, the spectacled caiman and the dwarf caiman). We are going to be picking up a few animals in the morning to take back to Newport, but we are currently out of animals for the night. So that means… no moving the coolers into the hotel!

Unloading animals for the last time at St. Augustine Alligator Farm. YAY!

Unloading animals for the last time at St. Augustine Alligator Farm. YAY!

I am looking forward to the morning because St. Augustine Alligator Farm has all 23 species of crocodilians on exhibit! So that will definitely be crossing an item off my bucket list! We will also be picking up the new crocodilians and heading to the Turtle Survival Alliance in South Carolina!

And then… we will FINALLY meet Bravo! We can’t wait!

The Boss of the Shark Tank, Denver Serves as Rehab Ambassador to Newport Aquarium

For the past 10 years, Newport Aquarium has participated in the North Carolina Sea Turtle Project, which gives newly hatched sea turtles a head start by fostering them for one year before releasing them back into the wild. The program increases their chances of survival as only one in 1,000 sea turtles make it to adulthood. Tilly is the baby sea turtle Newport Aquarium will foster this year; her progress is well documented on this blog.

In the same animal family as Tilly is Denver, the nearly 200-pound loggerhead sea turtle and one of the most recognizable animals at Newport Aquarium. Denver is not a candidate for release back into the wild because of an injury suffered when he was a hatchling. One of his back flippers is smaller than the other because part of it was bitten off by a fellow hatchling. Additionally, upon his arrival at Newport Aquarium, Denver had to be treated for an air pocket that was caught under his shell, which trapped air and made it difficult for him to properly swim and dive.

Denver gets fed 5-6 pounds of fish/squid every day.

Denver gets fed 5-6 pounds of fish/squid every day.

Now vigorously roaming the waters of the Surrounded by Sharks exhibit for nearly the past 12 years, Denver serves as an ambassador to Newport Aquarium’s animal rehab and conservation efforts. He is widely considered the “boss” of the 385,000-gallon tank as his neighbors – four shark rays, tiger sharks, zebra sharks, stingrays and nearly 300 fish – yield to him when crossing paths.

Denver, who is approximately 19 years old, was aptly named because in the fall of 2002 he came to Newport Aquarium from Denver Aquarium.

With a shell currently measuring approximately three feet in length and approaching 200 pounds, Denver weighed close to 145 pounds and was half the size he is now when he moved to Northern Kentucky.

Denver swimming in the Surrounded by Sharks exhibit.

Denver swimming in the Surrounded by Sharks exhibit.

The average weight of an adult loggerhead hovers around 250 pounds, however Newport Aquarium biologists believe Denver will remain closer to the 200-pound mark because of his diet, which consists of 5-6 pounds of fish and/or squid each day.

Three of the largest turtle species in the world will be on display at Newport Aquarium when the new Turtle Canyon exhibit opens March 22, 2014: Denver; Bravo, a more than 600-pound, 84-year-old Galapagos tortoise and the largest turtle in the Midwest; and Thunder, a 118-pound alligator snapping turtle.

Visit Newport Aquarium’s official blog – aquariumworks.org – to read #TurtleTuesday updates.

Operation Bravo: Part 1

By Alle Foster

Hello! My name is Alle Foster, and I am the Conservation Manager for the WAVE Foundation at the Newport Aquarium. I am with Ric Urban and Becky Echtenkamp from the Husbandry Department at the Newport Aquarium, and we are going on a very unique adventure over the next few days… and I am going to share it with you!

When we are at work, a lot of guests ask us, “How do you get the animals at the Aquarium?” or “Where do the animals come from?” It is definitely a good question, and many people don’t realize that a lot of the animals are “on loan” from other accredited zoos and aquariums around the United States, and sometimes we have to travel to pick up (or drop off) these different animals. So Ric, Becky and I are on a trip to Tennessee, Georgia, Florida and South Carolina to drop off, and pick up, some of our amazing animals. And of course we end the trip with picking up Bravo, the more than 600-pound, nearly 85-year-old Galapagos tortoise! Over the next few days we will be posting about our adventure and sharing all the fun and unpredictable aspects of our trip!

Becky Echtenkamp (left), Alle Foster (center) and Ric Urban are on a mission to bring Bravo, a 600-pound Galapagos tortoise, to Newport Aquarium.

Becky Echtenkamp (left), Alle Foster (center) and Ric Urban are on a mission to bring Bravo, a 600-pound Galapagos tortoise, to Newport Aquarium.

Day 1: Newport, Ky. to Chattanooga, Tenn. (6 hours)
We were supposed to be leaving for our trip on Monday morning, but the bad weather coming through made us leave a day early. So we decided to make it to Chattanooga, Tenn. for our first stop. A lot of people were asking us, “How are you going to transport a huge Galapagos tortoise?” Well, with a very large crate and truck!

Newport Aquarium aquatic biologist Becky Echtenkamp poses with Bravo's crate.

Newport Aquarium aquatic biologist Becky Echtenkamp poses with Bravo’s crate.

We met at Newport Aquarium at 9 a.m. and started getting animals ready. We heated up the truck to make sure that all of our cold-blooded reptiles would be comfortable, and loaded up all the coolers. Each crocodilian we are transporting are in their own cooler with plenty of room. What most people probably don’t realize, is that for the heat to reach the back of the truck for the animals to be comfortable, we have to crank it on high the entire way. We came prepared with thermometers to check the temperatures of the animal’s coolers, and we quickly learned that the front of the truck was kept close to 100 degrees for the first few hours of the trip… It was HOT! Ric, Becky and I felt like we were melting, but it was all for the safety and wellbeing of the animals. Once we got further south and out of the ice storms, then the weather started heating up and we could turn the heat down in the front of the truck. Thank goodness!

Ric loading truck

Ric Urban locks up the truck before the trip begins.

We arrived in Chattanooga at about 3:30 p.m. (about a six-hour drive time from Newport), and we decided to go to the Chattanooga Zoo to meet with some of Ric’s friends for a short while. We got to learn about their hellbender salamander conservation efforts and see a couple of their new exhibits before going to our hotel. We would like to say a huge thank you to the staff at the Chattanooga Zoo that welcomed us and kept us entertained for a while! Thank you! Thank you!

Another question that we get a lot during animal transfers is “What do you do with the animals overnight?” Well, all of the animals we are transporting are small enough to come into our pet-friendly hotels. And no, we do not get the animals out or let them roam around the hotel rooms! They stay perfectly safe and comfortable in their enclosures overnight until we can load them back up in the morning for the next chapter of the trip.

Alle Foster at a Chattanooga hotel with the alligator coolers.

Alle Foster at a Chattanooga hotel with the alligator coolers.

Check back tomorrow to say goodbye to our two American alligators (named Bert and Ernie) in Valdosta, Ga!

Operation Bravo Schedule:
Sunday, March 2: Newport, Ky. to Chattanooga, Tenn.
• Leaving with our two American alligators, a tomistoma, a spectacled caiman and a common caiman from Newport Aquarium (a bunch of crocodilians!). We left a day earlier than planned to beat the bad weather that was heading our way in Kentucky.

Monday March 3: Chattanooga, Tenn. to Valdosta, Ga.
• We are stopping here to drop off our two American alligators.

Tuesday March 4: Valdosta, Ga. to St. Augustine, Fla.
• We are going to St. Augustine Alligator Farm to pick up two new hatchling American alligators for our outreach programs for the WAVE Foundation. We are also dropping off the other crocodilians at this stop and possibly picking up another crocodilian for an exhibit.

Wednesday, March 5: St. Augustine, Fla. to Charleston, S.C. to Columbia, S.C.
• We are going to stop at the Turtle Survival Alliance to learn about different turtle and tortoise conservation efforts before heading to Columbia, S.C. to pick up Bravo, our new Galapagos tortoise!

Thursday March 6: Columbia, S.C. to Knoxville, Tenn. to Newport, Ky.
• We are heading home with Bravo and our new hatchling American alligators and stopping at the Knoxville Zoo along the way to pick up a couple of Spider tortoises for the new Turtle Canyon exhibit!