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.

JOURNEY OF SURVIVAL: Meet Tilly the Turtle

Tilly is the name of choice for Newport Aquarium's Facebook fans.

Tilly is the name of choice for Newport Aquarium’s Facebook fans.

The people have spoken and Newport Aquarium‘s baby loggerhead sea turtle’s name is officially Tilly!

After a week-long Facebook naming contest Tilly finished first ahead of Josie, followed by Emmy and Carolina.

Tilly first made her public debut last Tuesday when she was formally moved to the Hanauma Bay tank at Shore Gallery during Newport Aquarium’s press conference announcing the upcoming Turtle Canyon exhibit.

On Monday, Feb. 24, Tilly surpassed the 2-pound mark after weighing in at 929 grams (2.05 pounds to be exact). With her increased weight, her food intake has been moved up to 14 grams twice per day.

Tilly

Tilly is getting settled into her new digs and so has shown no trouble catching some ZZZZs.

Tilly in the Hanauma Bay tank at the Shore Gallery exhibit.

Tilly in the Hanauma Bay tank at the Shore Gallery exhibit.

“She loves the caves and the tank’s nooks and crannies,” said Jen Hazeres, aquatic biologist and Tilly’s primary caretaker. “She sleeps super sound and does not wake up unless I give her a tap on her shell.”

She has shown no hesitation in mixing and mingling with the other animals in the tank. Although Hazeres said the eels in the tank appear to be hiding since Tilly’s arrival.

The biggest challenge Tilly has faced is competing for good. Hazeres uses a net to divide the fish in the tank from Tilly during Tilly’s feeding times. Eventually, Hazeres states, Tilly will need to learn to be fast with getting her food as it’s a trait she will need to know once she’s released back into the wild next fall.

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

Turtle Canyon to Open at Newport Aquarium in March 2014

Newport Aquarium will feature three of the largest turtle species in the world

NAQ_TurtleCanyon-Poster2014

NEWPORT, Ky.Newport Aquarium announced Tuesday, Feb. 18, the addition of Turtle Canyon, a thrilling new exhibit set to open to the public March 22, 2014.

Turtle Canyon will feature a diverse collection of more than 14 species spanning three continents. From the largest tortoise species in the world, the Galapagos tortoise, to the smallest tortoise species in the Northern Hemisphere, the Egyptian tortoise, Turtle Canyon will showcase turtles of all shapes and sizes.

Following a renovation of the Rainforest exhibit, Turtle Canyon will allow guests to view turtles up close and personal from multiple angles and vantage points. The new exhibit will include a turtle corral, which offers guests the unique opportunity to touch a variety of these adorable shelled creatures, including one of North America’s largest tortoise species, the Gopher tortoise.

Two massive turtles are set to anchor the exhibits inside Turtle Canyon, giving Newport Aquarium a total of three of the largest turtle species in the world.

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)

A 118-pound alligator snapping turtle named Thunder will make his new digs at Turtle Canyon. Believed to be more than 100 years of age, Thunder is the oldest resident at Newport Aquarium.

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.

Newport Aquarium mainstay Denver, the mischievous 200-pound loggerhead sea turtle with a three-foot-long shell, will continue to roam the waters of the Surrounded by Sharks exhibit. When he first arrived at Newport in 2003, Denver was treated for an air pocket caught under his shell that made it difficult for him to dive and swim. Now completely healed, Denver serves as the aquarium’s ambassador to its sea turtle conservation efforts.

Denver, our nearly 200-pound loggerhead sea turtle, serves an ambassador to Newport Aquarium's sea turtle conservation efforts.

Denver, our nearly 200-pound loggerhead sea turtle, serves an ambassador to Newport Aquarium’s sea turtle conservation efforts.

The newest member of the aquarium’s turtle family is a sixth-month-old, 1.9-pound loggerhead who was put on display at the Shore Gallery exhibit on Tuesday. After hatching in August at Emerald Isle, N.C., this female loggerhead has been fostered by the Newport Aquarium husbandry staff since late October. Her journey of survival has been documented on Newport Aquarium’s official blog, aquariumworks.org.

Newport Aquarium needs your help naming its young loggerhead sea turtle. Fans can vote on Newport Aquarium's Facebook page from Feb. 18-24, 2014.

Newport Aquarium needs your help naming its young loggerhead sea turtle. Fans can vote on Newport Aquarium’s Facebook page from Feb. 18-24, 2014.

Fans can help name this young loggerhead by voting on Newport Aquarium’s Facebook page. Voting begins Feb. 18 and runs through Feb. 24.

For more information on Turtle Canyon, visit NewportAquarium.com or call toll free 800-406-FISH (3474). Visit the aquarium’s Facebook page for #TurtleTuesday posts.

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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

JOURNEY OF SURVIVAL: Newport Aquarium’s young loggerhead sea turtle is ready for exhibit

Josie 1

Equivalent to a baby making its first steps, the six-month-old loggerhead sea turtle that Newport Aquarium has fostered since October is ready to go on display.

On Tuesday, Feb. 18, the loggerhead will be moved to the Shore Gallery exhibit in the 900-gallon Hanauma Bay tank, which simulates an active volcanic crater and reef.

“It’s a great tank to start with for her because there is a shelf, which will allow her to get individually fed since the other animals in the tank are ravenous,” said Aquatic Biologist Jen Hazeres, the turtle’s primary caretaker.

Josie 2

The Hanauma Bay tank includes Stripey fish, Achilles tang, emperor angelfish, two eels and crabs. Upon her move to exhibit, the female loggerhead will be interacting with other animals for the first time in her young life.

“She will try, and might succeed, eating some of the fish, really all of them,” Hazeres said. “It’ll be fun; it’s good training for her to be around other fish and learn to not waste energy chasing animals that she will have a hard time catching. It’s something she will have to know once she’s in out the wild.”

As the sea turtle’s weight increases, so too does her food intake. Currently she is getting 12.5 grams of food twice per day.

A growth chart of the young loggerhead's weight (in grams).

A growth chart of the young loggerhead’s weight (in grams).

Now that her weight is up – she checked in at 831 grams (1.83 pounds) on Feb. 10 – and she is able to dive to the bottom of her current 90-gallon tank with relative ease, Hazeres said the small turtle is ready to move onto the next phase of her growth.

“Displaying her for other people is what I’m looking forward to the most,” said Hazeres. “It’s always satisfying seeing an animal more in its natural habitat. It’s the next stage of her development.”

Josie 3

Visit Newport Aquarium’s official blog – aquariumworks.org – to read #TurtleTuesday updates on the baby sea turtle’s progress.

JOURNEY OF SURVIVAL: Young Sea Turtle at Newport Aquarium is Bursting With Energy

Newport Aquarium's young loggerhead sea turtle is not camera shy.

Newport Aquarium’s young loggerhead sea turtle is not camera shy.

Most parents can agree that infants can be quite the handful. Between changing diapers, feeding, calming down cries, and burning off their energy; caring for a baby is a round-the-clock venture.

Aquatic Biologist Jen Hazeres and her assistants face similar realities while rearing Newport Aquarium’s six-month-old loggerhead sea turtle.

Our young loggerhead has displayed playful behavior and a curious attitude during her time at Newport Aquarium. She is a growing ball of energy, which was why she was moved from a 90-gallon tank to a 250-gallon tank on Jan. 7.

She is extremely close to going on exhibit, which will help her mental growth as she learns to interact with other animals in a new environment.

Most times when our baby loggerhead is taken out of her tank, she can be seen tirelessly waving her front flippers.

Exactly three months to the day her weight was recorded (70 grams) at Newport Aquarium for the first time, she weighed in at 664 grams (1.46 pounds) on Jan. 27.

She is getting wider, but the goal is take sure her width coincides with her length so she doesn’t become overweight.

As long as Newport Aquarium husbandry keeps the loggerhead’s weight on target, “This turtle is going to be just fine,” says Hazeres.

To help the loggerhead continue to gain the proper weight, she is currently being fed 10 grams of food twice a day. In the morning she eats a clay substance filled with vitamins and minerals. In the afternoon she gets to snack on small animals, such as silverside fish, and never leaves so much as a crumb – a sure sign of positive physical growth.

Eating a silverside fish head first is a positive sign that the young loggerhead is more comfortable with her swimming abilities.

Eating a silverside fish head first is a positive sign that the young loggerhead is more comfortable with her swimming abilities.

She does not mind the clay food in the morning, as evidenced by last week’s video of her scarfing down her breakfast in one minute.

Visit Newport Aquarium’s official blog – aquariumworks.org – to read #TurtleTuesday updates on the baby sea turtle’s progress.

JOURNEY OF SURVIVAL: Newport Aquarium’s young loggerhead is a hungry, hungry hippo

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For a lot of parents, getting their child to eat a healthy meal can be a challenge. A right of passage for many parents includes resorting to turning peas on a spoon into imaginary airplanes or spaceships to trick their kids into eating their veggies.

The importance of eating healthy is no different when it comes to raising newborn animals. Luckily for Aquatic Biologist Jen Hazeres, getting Newport Aquarium’s six-month-old loggerhead sea turtle to have a well-rounded and nutritious meal is easy peasy.

Check out this video of our young loggerhead devouring her breakfast within 60 seconds.

In the video, the baby loggerhead was eating a piece of Mazuri Sea Turtle Gel made specifically for carnivorous turtles. When mixed with water, the gel hardens into a clay-like substance. Based on how fast she eats these chunks, it must be pretty tasty. The ingredients include salmon meal, fish meal, fish oil, squid meal and a ton of vitamins to supplement her growth and immune system.

As you can see from the video, it’s quite an ordeal for her to eat because her buoyancy does not allow her to remain at the bottom of the tank for very long. This is why it is crucial that she continues to progress with adding weight.

During her weigh-in on Jan. 20, she tipped the scale at 597 grams (or about 1.3 pounds), which is 69 more grams from the previous week. Not only is she gaining mass, she’s also getting larger as her shell, front to back, measured slightly more than six inches long, and almost 4.75 inches from side to side.

Aquatic Biologist Jen Hazeres (left) takes the young sea turtle's measurements.

Aquatic Biologist Jen Hazeres (left) takes the young sea turtle’s measurements.

It’s little wonder this young loggerhead is not shy about eating as she has shown a natural pension to put her mouth on anything in her sight when she’s curious or excited.

One of the funniest sites featuring this particular sea turtle is when Hazeres and her assistants clean out her tank. They use a small, clear water hose to siphon out dirt and feces and oftentimes the mischievous loggerhead spots the hose and immediately begins to chew on it, delaying the entire cleaning process.

Visit Newport Aquarium’s official blog – aquariumworks.org – to read #TurtleTuesday updates on the baby sea turtle’s progress.

JOURNEY OF SURVIVAL: Baby Loggerhead Packs on the Pound

The loggerhead after her Jan. 13 weight check.

The loggerhead after her Jan. 13 weight check.

After receiving the privilege of fostering a young hatchling loggerhead sea turtle via the North Carolina Sea Turtle Project and successfully transporting her back to Northern Kentucky in October, the Newport Aquarium husbandry staff has the task of ensuring that she develops healthy, strong and independent in order to increase her chances of survival in the wild.

The first time Newport Aquarium biologist Jen Hazeres weighed the baby loggerhead on Oct. 27, the scale read 70 grams – the equivalent of one egg out of your refrigerator!

Being so light made swimming for the loggerhead quite the challenge as she had to fight against her own buoyancy. This had potential to become problematic during feeding time as most of the young turtle’s food would sink to the bottom of her 90-gallon tank.

The baby loggerhead eventually outgrew her 90-gallon tank.

The baby loggerhead eventually outgrew her 90-gallon tank.

Hazeres, with assistance from fellow biologist Laurel Johnson, monitored the turtle’s progress during feedings. If she could not swim to the bottom of the tank to reach the food, hand feeding would be necessary.

The fastest way for the loggerhead to combat buoyancy was to pack on added weight.

Hazeres and Johnson have ensured she receives proper nutrients, feeding her twice a day. Her first meal usually consists of a gel concoction with added calcium. “It’s like a PowerBar for turtles,” said Hazeres. Her second meal in the afternoon is normally a meat, usually either fish or clam.

The baby loggerhead takes a bite of her morning meal.

The baby loggerhead takes a bite of her morning meal.

With this high protein diet, the loggerhead has seen an average growth increase of around 40 grams per week, or nearly half of her body weight compared to when she first arrived at Newport Aquarium. In just two months from her initial weigh-in here in the Northern Kentucky attraction, she went from 70 grams to 350 grams on Dec. 23 – a 400 percent increase!

With the additional weight came increased muscle mass and improvement in her swimming, which made navigating to the bottom of her original tank for food a cinch. The loggerhead surpassed one full pound on Jan. 6 after weighing in at 487 grams and on the following day she was moved into a larger, 250-gallon tank.

The baby loggerhead checked in at 487 grams on Jan. 6, 2014.

The baby loggerhead checked in at 487 grams on Jan. 6, 2014.

Her most recently recorded weight taken on Jan. 13 was 528 grams (1 pound, 3 ounces).

The baby loggerhead moved to her new 250-gallon tank on Jan. 7.

The baby loggerhead moved to her new 250-gallon tank on Jan. 7.

She still has plenty of room to grow as adult loggerheads from the southeastern United States have an average weight of 250 pounds.

From the top of her head to the end of her shell, the baby loggerhead measured roughly eight inches long on Jan. 14.

From the top of her head to the end of her shell, the baby loggerhead measured roughly eight inches long on Jan. 14.

To give you a perspective, Newport Aquarium’s famed Denver, the loggerhead sea turtle who can be found in the Surrounded by Sharks exhibit, weighs 200 pounds.

Denver the 200-pound loggerhead sea turtle.

Denver the 200-pound loggerhead sea turtle.

Visit Newport Aquarium’s official blog – aquariumworks.org – to read updates on the baby sea turtle’s progress.

Journey of Survival: Endangered Baby Sea Turtle Fostered at Newport Aquarium

 

A group of loggerhead turtles on the beach. (Photo courtesy of Ohio State University's Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist webpage, http://ocvn.osu.edu)

A group of loggerhead turtles on the beach. (Photo courtesy of Ohio State University’s Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist webpage, http://ocvn.osu.edu)

 

It happens every year from July through October along the coast of North Carolina. After dusk, thousands of baby loggerhead sea turtles hatch from eggs after months of developing in sand-covered nests on the beach. After these fresh turtles emerge from nests that average about 100 eggs, instinct tells them to head for the safety of the Atlantic shore, using moonlight over the ocean’s horizon as their guide.

Unfortunately, not every newly hatched turtle is lucky enough to make it to water. Manufactured sources of light from beachfront property, streetlights, car lights and campfires can turn hatchlings around in the wrong direction. This disorientation can signal doom for hatchlings, who must avoid such predators as seagulls, ghost crabs, raccoons and dogs in order to survive. Disorientation is a leading contribution to why experts estimate that only one in 1,000 hatchlings will reach adulthood. As a result, loggerhead sea turtles have been on the endangered species list since 1978.

A newly hatched loggerhead easily fits in the palm of a hand. (Photo courtesy of http://oceana.org/)

A newly hatched loggerhead easily fits in the palm of a hand. (Photo courtesy of http://oceana.org/)

Thankfully, for many of these shelled creatures, volunteers at the North Carolina Sea Turtle Project monitor and guide hatchlings to help ensure they make it to water. The volunteers also round up weak hatchlings and stragglers, and deliver them to North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission‘s Division of Wildlife Management staff, who care for these endangered animals until they are strong enough to be released back into the wild.

As part of its accreditation through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Newport Aquarium has participated in the North Carolina Sea Turtle Project since 2003. Each October, husbandry staffers from Newport Aquarium and other AZA accredited institutions from across the United States meet in The Tar Heel State and work with local marine biologists to release sea turtles into the ocean. Upon a successful release trip, each participating institution is given at least one young hatchling to foster typically for a year.

On Oct. 17, 2013, Newport Aquarium biologist Jen Hazeres and water quality specialist Cameo VonStrohe released Freedom, a loggerhead sea turtle, and 17 other sea turtles into the warm waters of the Gulf Stream 36 miles off the coast of North Carolina.

Following a successful release mission, Hazeres and VonStrohe did not return empty-handed. The Sea Turtle Project folks gave them a seven-week-old female loggerhead to foster and nurture at Newport Aquarium.

The young loggerhead was hatched at the beginning of August in Emerald Isle, N.C., and was no larger than the size of a 50-cent piece when she was given to Hazeres and VonStrohe. During her initial veterinarian visit at a North Carolina animal facility on Aug. 8, 2013, she was weighed at 54 grams, which is less than the weight of 11 nickels.

A closeup of Newport Aquarium's new baby loggerhead from Dec. 17, 2013.

A closeup of Newport Aquarium’s new baby loggerhead from Dec. 17, 2013.

Before heading back to Newport, Hazeres and VonStrohe lubricated the tiny loggerhead’s shell, and gave her eye drops to keep them moist during the car ride. Hazeres and VonStrohe loaded up their truck and transported the female loggerhead in a small C3 sterile container back to the aquarium. The container was covered to help keep the loggerhead warm and calm.

“And so she wouldn’t have to hear Cameo and I sing,” Hazeres joked of the drive back from North Carolina to Newport, Ky.

Visit Newport Aquarium’s official blog – aquariumworks.org – every Tuesday to receive updates on the baby sea turtle’s progress through its journey of survival.

Newport Aquarium Helps Release 18 Sea Turtles Offshore in North Carolina

NAQ’s AZA accreditation enabled participation in the conservation programImage

Newport Aquarium Water Quality Specialist Cameo Von Strohe (front) and Biologist Jen Hazeres (not pictured) helped release 18 loggerhead turtles Thursday as part of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission’s Sea Turtle Program. (Photo courtesy of North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores) 

BEAUFORT, N.C. – Two Newport Aquarium husbandry staffers, Biologist Jen Hazeres and Water Quality Specialist Cameo Von Strohe, participated Thursday in the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission’s Sea Turtle Project.

Hazeres and Von Strohe partnered with representatives from North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores, Mystic Aquarium, Pittsburgh Zoo and Virginia Living Museum to release 18 loggerhead turtles into warm waters of the Gulf Stream 36 miles off the coast of North Carolina. The turtles ranged from just a few weeks old to five years.

Newport Aquarium’s accreditation through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums enabled the Northern Kentucky attraction to participate in the Sea Turtle Project with other AZA members.

“Today was tremendous; releasing 18 turtles,” Hazeres said. “It was just an awesome day. There were some hatchlings, one turtle was five years old. It was a great day for everyone. We worked hard the last year for this day and it’s a great feeling to see the end results.”

As part of the Sea Turtle Project, newly hatched turtles that do not immediately venture to water, and therefore are most vulnerable to not survive, are rescued and nurtured for typically one year until they are healthy and strong enough to be released into the wild.

Hazeres served as the Newport Aquarium liaison to the Sea Turtle Project and spent the last year fostering Freedom the Sea Turtle. Hatched in July 2012, Freedom was identification tagged before his release into the stream, while two other turtles were satellite tagged. The satellite tags are used for scientific research and tracking, and can stay on a turtle anywhere from two weeks to a year.

The WAVE Foundation, Newport Aquarium’s nonprofit partner, financed Freedom’s tagging as part of its conservation and education initiatives.

For more information about Newport Aquarium, visit www.newportaquarium.com or call 800-406-3474.

-NewportAquarium.com-