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?

1 thought on “Operation Bravo: Part 3

  1. Pingback: Operation Bravo: Mission Complete | Aquarium Works

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