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.
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.
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.