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Learning About Sea Turtles and More at the South Carolina Aquarium

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While we were in Charleston, Dave and I visited the South Carolina Aquarium. Whit McMillan gave us a tour that included a peek behind the scenes. We arrived at the top of the Great Ocean tank at shark feeding time. There was a lot of activity as sharks swarmed around the food that was dropped into the water. The Great Ocean tank is huge – 42 feet deep. It holds approximately 750 fish and one Loggerhead Sea Turtle. Her name is Greta. She weighs 220 pounds!

Speaking of sea turtles, our next stop was at a very special place: the Sea Turtle Hospital. Here they treat injured and sick sea turtles. Turtles are commonly treated for symptoms like hypothermia, dehydration and anemia. They have also treated turtles that have been hit by boats or tangled in fishing line or nets.

1_21_13HospitalCurrently there are 24 patients in the Sea Turtle Hospital. This is the most patients this hospital has ever had. The reason is the recent cold fronts that have hit the East Coast. Most of the turtles currently in the hospital had varying degrees of “cold stun”. Sea turtles are reptiles. They are cold-blooded and migrate to stay in warm waters. Sudden cold weather in a coastal area causes the water temperature to drop. Turtles that haven't migrated out of this area yet become cold stunned. When a sea turtle is cold stunned, it floats at the surface, which makes it more vulnerable to being hit by a boat or tangled in fishing nets.

The Sea Turtle Hospital has treated and released a lot of turtles over the years. In fact, Whit told us that they just released their 100th sea turtle. The types of sea turtles currently in the hospital are Green Sea Turtle, Loggerhead Sea Turtle and Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle.1_21_13turtle2

Loggerhead Sea Turtles are the most abundant sea turtle found in waters off the U.S. Coast. Green Sea Turtles are among the largest sea turtles in the world. Only the Leatherback Sea Turtle is larger. Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtles are the world's most endangered population of sea turtles. They are endangered due to over-harvesting of their eggs in the past century. Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtles are also the smallest marine turtle in the world.

We learned so much during our time at the South Carolina Aquarium. Thank you to Whit for such an informative tour. The Sea Turtle Hospital is truly a special place. We hope all the current patients recover and return to the ocean soon!

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Further Exploration

The Sea Turtle Hospital:

http://scaquarium.org/STR/hospital/default.aspx

Green Sea Turtle:

http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/reptiles/green-turtle/

http://www.fws.gov/northflorida/SeaTurtles/Turtle%20Factsheets/green-sea-turtle.htm

Loggerhead Sea Turtle:

http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/reptiles/loggerhead-sea-turtle/

http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/turtles/loggerhead.htm

Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle:

http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/reptiles/kemps-ridley-sea-turtle/

http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/turtles/kempsridley.htm

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