After we permanently transferred our unreleasable adult loggerhead sea turtle "Christi" to a larger exhibit at Dallas World Aquarium in 2009, we began to partner with NC aquariums to acquire juvenile sea turtles that we could display for three years and then be released back into the wild. The previous two sea turtles we have displayed at the VLM - Virginia and Abby - have originated from the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores, including the most recent juvenile (unnamed as yet) we acquired on our trip to release Abby.
A sea turtle nest roped off in Duck, NCNC Aquariums has an excellent support network of volunteers and trained staff that monitor loggerhead nesting sites along the coastal beaches. They not only protect the nests from being disturbed, but assist the hatchlings to reach the water safely and collect valuable data in the process. The vast majority of hatchlings emerge from the nests healthy and able but many hatchlings do not successfully extract themselves from the nests and may remain buried unless assisted. Once the hatchlings have vacated the nests on their own, the nests are excavated for the stranglers which are then brought back to the aquariums to be nursed back to health or held until they can be released.
A bin of loggerhead hatchlings ready for release by the NC AquariumA few of the rescued juvenile turtles are loaned out to other public facilities to serve as educational ambassadors in such places as: Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium, Newport Aquarium, Mystic Aquarium, Monterey Bay, and the VLM. Some facilities display the turtles as juveniles and return them after one year; we display the animals for up to three years and then return them to NC for release, and in "Abby's" case, to be affixed with a satellite tag.
Above: VLM Aquarist Patrycja Lawryniuk attaches the satellite tag with epoxy
Below: Close up of the tag that will transmit Abby's location when she surfaces
A hatchling at release
As of 10/24/2013, Abby has traveled a total distance of 693km (that's about 430 miles!)! You can follow her progress at http://www.seaturtle.org/tracking/?tag_id=128947