Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Because sea turtles can't surf the internet, continued...

We give several types of food enrichment and the one featured here is the fish pop. Fish pops are our take on a popsicle! Only the turtles don’t get a choice between grape and cherry. They get a choice between mackerel, smelt, capelin, or herring! We take a portion of their fish diet and freeze it into an extra large popsicle. It is a riot to watch the turtles nose the floating fish pop around the tank trying to get their mouths around it. The fish pop melts over time giving the turtles a tasty reward for their efforts. This type of enrichment breaks up the normal feeding routine while providing their daily allotment of food.

Enjoy the video of Santee with her fish pop!

Be sure to check in tomorrow to learn about two additional types of food enrichment!

Megan and Kelly

Because sea turtles can't surf the internet...

When you think of a rehabilitation facility, the physical health probably comes to mind. And rightly so, the patients wouldn’t be here unless they were injured in some way. However, less thought about in a rehabilitation setting is the animal’s mental health. At the South Carolina Aquarium Sea Turtle Rescue Program, we also take the animal’s mental health into consideration with environmental enrichment.

Environmental enrichment aims to enhance animal activity and provide mental stimulation, adding interesting and complex activities to the animals’ daily routine. While sea turtles are not known for their intelligence, we would like to keep their brains healthy for when they do make their return to the wild. However, what humans would use to keep themselves occupied would be highly inappropriate for our sea turtles – they can’t text their friends, read a book, or work a crossword puzzle. So we came up with a few things the turtles do like.

If you’ve ever visited the hospital (and if you haven’t, I highly suggest you do!), you’ve probably wondered and maybe even asked what the PVC pipe cuffs in the bottom of their tanks are used for. It’s an amazing phenomenon and we are all still amused by it. As you will see in the photos below, the turtles use the pipe cuffs when they sleep! In the wild, sea turtles often sleep under ledges or coral reefs away from sharks, one of their few natural predators. In the Sea Turtle Hospital, they sleep with their heads buried inside the pipes. It’s like their personal security blanket during their stay at the hospital. It takes some longer than others to catch on, but by now almost all of our new cold stunned turtles are using them.

And then there is Lewbart, one of the little NC cold stunned green sea turtles, who has to be different than all the others. This little guy insists on using the pipe cuff for a back scratcher. The photo below shows Lewbart after he worked the pipe onto his back. Next is the video of how hard he works to get it there!

Stay tuned for tomorrow's enrichment blog...

Megan Walsh, Sea Turtle Rescue Intern and Kelly Thorvalson, Sea Turtle Rescue Manager