Feeding hungry sea turtles
Published December 29, 2010
From Jenn Dittmar, National Aquarium Animal Rescue stranding coordinator
In recent posts, we introduced you to five Kemp’s ridley sea turtles that have been in rehab with us for three weeks now. On December 22, we welcomed six additional Kemp’s ridley sea turtles rescued by the New England Aquarium. We now have a total of 11 sea turtles in rehabilitation!
Taking care of animals in rehabilitation requires a lot of work! We’ll do our best to keep you posted on their progress and give you a glimpse into the hard work it takes to care for these animals.
Next to routine medical care, a healthy diet is a must for animals in rehabilitation. We feed all our animals--whether they are in rehabilitation or a part of our permanent collection--restaurant-quality food to ensure it is the highest quality.
Kemp’s ridley sea turtles are carnivores, and in their natural environment they typically enjoy a varied diet consisting of crabs, shrimp, barnacles, mussels, clams, squid, fish and jellies. Eating a variety of food items is essential to a balanced diet for a Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, so we provide just that.
Twice a day, National Aquarium Animal Rescue staff and volunteers prepare foods such as capelin (a lean fish), squid, mussels and shrimp for the turtles. Crabs are also offered as a special treat for the turtles. Though they are a treat, crabs provide a significant source of calcium for the turtles. Calcium plays a very important role in reptile health, which we monitor through routine blood tests.
Here you can see how we prepare food for the turtles. On this particular day, I prepared capelin, squid, shrimp and soft-shell crab. You can see that we chop the whole food items down to bite-size pieces.
At this stage of rehab, the turtles are eager to eat when food is offered. To accurately track their diets, we calculate the amount of food each turtle should receive daily and then keep detailed records of how much food they actually eat.
Here you can see a meal being weighed out, then the final result after all the turtle meals have been prepared (only five turtles were being fed for this particular feed). If you look closely, you can see the little red dots on the tray, which are multivitamins.
Feeding hungry turtles can be challenging, especially with several turtles sharing a pool, and I like to compare it to a well-choreographed but improvised ballet!
Feeding all those hungry mouths, along with providing health care can be expensive; we certainly can’t ask a sick or injured turtle for proof of insurance before deciding to admit it for rehabilitation. You can directly help feed or care for an endangered sea turtle by making a tax-deductible donation to National Aquarium Animal Rescue.