A new sea turtle named “Caleb” is now on exhibit publicly in The Aquarium at Mote Marine Laboratory, which is providing the turtle a permanent home because it has impaired swimming abilities and cannot be returned to the wild.
Caleb is the first Kemp’s ridley turtle — considered the most endangered sea turtle species on Earth — to become a permanent resident in Mote’s exhibit Sea Turtles: Ancient Survivors. The exhibit also houses loggerhead and green turtles that could not be released, has a hospital for hatchling sea turtles and features educational displays about Mote’s sea turtle conservation and research, highlighting how the public can help sea turtles survive.
Caleb, a juvenile turtle weighing 20 pounds with an upper shell nearly 14 inches long, was rescued Nov. 9, 2011 on Ormond Beach and brought to the Volusia County Marine Science Center in Ponce Inlet. The turtle arrived with pneumocoelom, or floating disorder, which causes sea turtles to float at the surface, hindering their ability to dive for food and evade threats such as boats and predators. Caleb’s floating condition was resolved, but the turtle developed a bone infection that affected both front flippers. As a result, Caleb has limited use of these flippers and has lost the ability to evade predators and endure long swims. Because of Caleb’s impaired swimming ability, state wildlife officials declared the turtle non-releasable and selected Mote to provide long-term care.
“Caleb doesn’t have that full range of movement he’d need to survive in the wild — the ability to undergo long migrations and avoid boats or predators,” said Holly West, Sea Turtle Care Coordinator in The Aquarium at Mote. “We are glad to provide him a permanent home where we can work with him to improve his swimming abilities and where he can help educate the public about this endangered species.”
Caleb arrived at Mote in December and stayed for about one month behind the scenes in Mote’s Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Hospital, to ensure the turtle was healthy and adjusting to the new environment enough to be on exhibit. The turtle is now settling into the public exhibit, and caregivers are monitoring its condition closely.
“Caleb has adjusted nicely to the new habitat and continues to eat well,” West said.
The turtle will serve as an ambassador for its species, helping Mote visitors of all ages learn about Kemp’s ridleys. Mote caregivers hope to train Caleb in husbandry behaviors designed to help the turtle’s veterinary care run as smoothly as possible. Eventually they hope to train Caleb to participate in research that helps reveal how sea turtles sense their underwater world. Support the care of Caleb and other sea turtles in The Aquarium by adopting a sea turtle at: www.mote.org/adopt.
Founded in 1955, Mote Marine Laboratory is an independent, nonprofit 501(c)3 research organization based in Sarasota, Fla., with field stations in eastern Sarasota County, Charlotte Harbor and the Florida Keys. Donations to Mote are tax deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law.
Mote is dedicated to today’s research for tomorrow’s oceans with an emphasis on world-class research relevant to conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity, healthy habitats and natural resources. Research programs include studies of human cancer using marine models, the effects of man-made and natural toxins on humans and on the environment, the health of wild fisheries, developing sustainable and successful fish restocking techniques and food production technologies and the development of ocean technology to help us better understand the health of the environment. Mote research programs also focus on understanding the population dynamics of manatees, dolphins, sea turtles, sharks and coral reefs and on conservation and restoration efforts related to these species and ecosystems. Mote’s vision includes positively impacting public policy through science-based outreach and education. Showcasing this research is The Aquarium at Mote, open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 365 days a year.
Be sure to subscribe to this column, travel to some of the greatest local getaways around, all from the comfort of your desktop (or laptop, or PDA, or smartphone!) If you have a favorite local attraction you’d like to see profiled, please let me know. Also, be sure to follow me on twitter, and read my articles about motorsports, HOAs, elections, and restaurants.