1450 Merrihue Drive , Naples, FL
A baby female loggerhead sea turtle spent its first day on display Wednesday in its new aquarium home at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.
“Today is a very exciting day for the Conservancy,” Conservancy President Andrew McElwaine said. “The loggerhead sea turtle is a tremendous addition to our Discovery Center, and we are honored that the animal will be staying with us, giving visitors a unique opportunity to learn more about the species.”
The tiny turtle comes to the Conservancy from the Boca Raton Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program, based at the Gumbo Limbo Environmental Complex.
The turtle was part of a study by Florida Atlantic University researchers on the sex ratio of loggerhead hatchlings during last year’s nesting season. At the study’s conclusion, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission determined where each juvenile sea turtle would go.
The young turtle will live at the Conservancy for about three to four years before its release into the wild.
Its stay at the Conservancy will have a two-fold purpose: allowing it to grow to nearly 18 inches in length, at which time it can be released with a better chance of survival, and serving as an ambassador for its species to educate the public about the importance of protecting sea turtles.
In June 2008, the Conservancy released a mature loggerhead sea turtle into the wild after raising the animal for three years.
The Conservancy got that turtle from the Minnesota Zoo after a tourist visiting Southwest Florida took it back home as a baby.
The new turtle will not “graduate” to the 2,000-gallon Patch Reef aquarium, which normally houses sea turtles, until it grows to nearly 12 inches in shell length due to the larger predatory fish living there.
“Having this sea turtle here at the Conservancy is a natural extension to our ongoing expertise and Sea Turtle Research, Monitoring and Protection Program that we have conducted for over 28 years,” said Troy Frensley, Education and Discovery Center manager.
Visitors can be among the first to see the turtle in the Conservancy Discovery Center, open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. on Sundays, November through April.
Special sea turtle presentations are conducted daily at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. in the Conservancy Discovery Center.
A special coupon for free child’s admission to the Conservancy Nature Center and Discovery Center will be available online beginning April 20 at www.conservancy.org. The coupon will be accessible at the Web site through May 31.
The Conservancy Nature Center is located at 1450 Merrihue Drive, off Goodlette-Frank Road at 14th Avenue North.
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Editor’s note: What follows is more user-generated content relating to the loggerhead sea turtle.
Contributed by Fitzgerald Lucillo
I was lucky enough to be invited to the “unveiling” of the newest addition to the Conservancy of Southwest Florida Nature Center — a juvenile female loggerhead sea turtle.
Before arriving at its new temporary home, the small sea turtle was housed on the east coast of Florida and was part of the Boca Raton Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program at the Gumbo Limbo Environmental Complex.
Before attending this welcome ceremony Tuesday — before Wednesday’s formal announcement — for the turtle, I had no idea that the sex of sea turtles is dependent upon the sand temperature found in their nests on the beach.
For loggerhead sea turtles, the warmer eggs toward the top of the nest, closest to the sunlight, generally hatch as females while the ones in the cooler sand at the bottom of the nest generally hatch as males.
I also discovered that the Conservancy has been monitoring and protecting sea turtle hatchlings on Keewaydin Island for 28 years.
Conservancy biologist Dave Addison, who has been heading up the program for more than 20 years, estimated that the Conservancy efforts have saved about 22,000 sea turtle hatchlings.
Addison also spoke about the need for satellite transmitters so the turtles can be better tracked to understand their behavior and travel patterns.
He referenced one sea turtle that hatched at Keewaydin that found its way to Japan and then to the western shores of Mexico.
Conservancy biologist Jeff Schmid, also a renowned sea turtle expert, announced that he would be starting a sea turtle monitoring program off the coast in south Lee County.
Conservancy Education Manager Troy Frensley and Associate Naturalist Zach Mauk ended the evening’s ceremony by taking the turtle from its traveling crate.
The female loggerhead, flapping her flippers wildly, was weighed and measured before being dropped into the 315-gallon tank.
Frensley referred to her actions as “air swimming,” an instinctive move for the turtle.
She weighed about three-quarters of a pound and her shell measured 13 centimeters in length, a little over 5 inches.
The turtle will spend about eight months in the smaller tank before being transferred to the Conservancy’s 2,000-gallon Patch Reef tank.
After three to five years, when the turtle grows to 18 inches, she can be released into the sea, back to her “forever” home.
All of us look forward to saying “goodbye” to this new turtle in about four years!