Just over a week ago I was on a beach in Alicante, Spain participating in a loggerhead turtle release. The 27 turtles Oceanographic had successfully hatched and reared for the past year were released into the Mediterranean to continue their life in the wild.

One of the great things about the release was that some of the loggerheads were equipped with tracking devices. We have been able to watch their movement and some have travelled a significant distance as they learn their new way around their new world. You can follow their progress online. Hopefully in a decade or so they will return to the beach and continue their lifecycle.

Baby loggerhead turtles

Veterinarian Jose Luis holds up a newly hatched loggerhead turtle.

Back at the Aquarium, staff at Oceanographic are already working on the next cohort of turtles. These eggs were rescued months ago from a busy tourist beach just south of Valencia. Too often turtle nests can be disrupted and destroyed by beachgoers, unaware of what lays in the sand below their feet.

I was fortunate to be on site when this year’s rescued turtle eggs began to hatch on Thursday. Veterinarian Jose Luis of Oceanographic provided Dr. John Nightingale, Vancouver Aquarium president and CEO and myself a tour of the rehabilitation facility and the incubator. Of the 15 eggs that arrived at Oceanographic, eight were fertilized and viable. You can see from the following image how they are all starting to escape from their eggs.

Loggerhead turtle rescue program

These baby turtles are getting a head start on life safely hatching at Oceanographic to be released back into the ocean.

The eggs hatched in 47 days, slightly faster than the last group. Animal care staff elected for a slightly higher temperature in the incubator to increase the number of females that hatch.  These tiny loggerhead turtles currently weigh only 14 grams but will grow to over 100 kilograms.

One of the challenges in the incubation process is ensuring the eggs remain stable or they can suffocate. Staff also must ensure the appropriate moisture content and watch for fungus on the shell, which can result in animal care staff having to help the turtle break out of the shell. We look forward to watching these turtles grow over the coming year and then be released.

Blog post by Dolf De Jong, vice president, conservation and education at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre.

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