A project of North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores in conjunction with the partners and sponsors detailed below.
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The North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores began satellite tagging sea turtles it releases in 2007. The Aquarium works with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) on rescuing imperiled hatchlings. Most of the hatchlings are released as soon as they recover, but a few remain awhile longer in educational programs or exhibits. These grown turtles are outfitted with the satellite tags and released when they are between the ages of two and three years old.
At that age, their carapaces are large enough to support the transmitter tags that allow their movements to be tracked. The transmitters, about three inches long, are affixed to the shells with epoxy. A saltwater cutoff switch shuts down the devices when the turtles dive, prolonging battery life. Sometimes the transmitters stop signaling for several days or weeks for unknown reasons, and then will resume operation. The lightweight, streamlined mechanisms have minimal effect on the turtles’ maneuverability. The duration of the battery determines how long the tag transmits data on the turtle locations. The time varies with each tag and turtle.
Researchers and Aquarium staff use the information to learn more about sea turtles in general, and about the behavior patterns of turtles that have been rescued and reared in an aquarium setting their entire lives.
The Aquarium’s sea turtle exhibits and programs are in keeping with the Aquarium’s overall mission: To inspire appreciation and conservation of North Carolina’s aquatic habitats. While at the Aquarium, rescued hatchlings are prominently exhibited in a rehabilitation room. The display, showing several tanks with recovering sea turtle hatchlings rescued from local beaches, is central to a larger sea turtle rehabilitation and education exhibit, Loggerhead Odyssey. The exhibit combines interesting facts of sea turtle biology with conservation messages through graphic panels, a large, mounted sea turtle skeleton, and a scale-model nest with hatchlings. The up-close encounters with the sea turtles on exhibit and in programs help to bring home key conservation messages to visitors.
The NCWRC works with volunteers and other agencies to monitor turtle nests, rescue weak or sick hatchlings, and excavate nests when necessary. NCWRC brings the hatchlings to the Aquarium for care. Most of the hatchlings are Atlantic loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta), with an occasional green turtle (Chelonia mydas). The Aquarium assists with rehabilitation and rescue of cold-stunned or injured juvenile sea turtles as well.
The main goal of the Sea Turtle Awareness project is education of residents and visitors through local release and web-site tracking methods. A secondary goal is to compile a long-term data base of migratory patterns for turtles that have been raised in captivity for multiple years.
North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC)