Loggerhead Initiative

Loggerhead Head Start Program

In order to help save these magnificent animals from extinction, the National Aquarium participates in a program run by the North Carolina Aquarium, which gives baby sea turtles a better chance at survival. Through this program, sea turtle hatchlings spend time in aquariums where they can safely grow. Once they are given a clean bill of health and an extra boost of nutrition, they are released back to the ocean.

Sea turtles have a challenging life. Weighing just 20 grams at birth, they face many natural predators both on the sandy beaches where they hatch and in the oceans where they dwell. Loggerheads were once actively hunted for their eggs and meat, and in some places of the world, they still are. Because of their low survival rate, they have been classified as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.

National Aquarium staff picks up a baby turtle from North Carolina and brings it to our facility, where it spends some time in quarantine while its health and growth is closely monitored. When the baby loggerhead is ready, it goes on exhibit.

Under the Aquarium’s care, the turtle is measured monthly and also undergoes more extensive exams at milestone ages, like 6 months and 1 year. These exams include X-rays and blood work. The staff also monitors the loggerhead’s calcium levels to ensure healthy shell growth.

After National Aquarium staff can establish that a turtle has met certain growth and health criteria, the loggerhead is returned to North Carolina for release into the ocean. Eventually, this tiny turtle could weigh up to 200 pounds!

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