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Celebrate World Oceans Day by visiting a loggerhead sea turtle

By Staff | Jun 5, 2009

The Conservancy of Southwest Florida is celebrating World Oceans Day on Monday, June 8 by inviting the public to visit the new loggerhead sea turtle at the Discovery Center. Kids will be admitted for free with a coupon available on the Conservancy Web site.

Visitors can see the juvenile female loggerhead sea turtle at the Conservancy Discovery Center throughout the day, with special turtle presentations at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.

During the 3 p.m. show, naturalists feed the turtle. The two shows are repeated daily Monday through Saturday. A special coupon for free child’s admission to the Conservancy Nature Center and Discovery Center is available at www.conservancy.org.

The juvenile loggerhead comes to the Conservancy of Southwest Florida from the Boca Raton Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program, based at the Gumbo Limbo Environmental Complex. Researchers from Florida Atlantic University conducted a study on the sex ratio of loggerhead hatchlings during last year’s nesting season.

The young turtle will live at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida for 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 into the wild 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 of Southwest Florida released a mature loggerhead sea turtle into the wild after raising the animal for three years.

This tiny 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.

Now is an important time to learn more about sea turtles. World Oceans Day falls within the loggerhead sea turtle nesting season, which began May 1 and continues through Oct. 31. During this time, beachgoers are encouraged to be very careful to avoid disturbing nesting sites. It’s also important to abide by county restrictions concerning lights on the beach. The turtle hatchlings find their way to the Gulf waters guided by moonlight, and can be confused by exterior lighting from homes or businesses. Residents and businesses should turn off their exterior lighting. Security lights should be motion detected only.

For 28 years, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida has been studying the nesting of loggerhead sea turtles on Keewaydin Island in Collier County to help protect these endangered animals. This year for the first time, the Conservancy also will be monitoring female turtles after they leave the island and begin their migration through the Gulf of Mexico waters. While onshore this summer, Conservancy staff will place a satellite tag on female turtles that will be activated when the turtle comes to the water surface for a breath of air. The tag then sends a ping to a satellite, pinpointing the turtle’s location. The Conservancy will then track each turtle’s migration to learn more about where they travel and live at sea.

Additional information about sea turtles is available on the Conservancy Web site at www.conservancy.org/seaturtles.