Meet the Turtles: Ari the Kemp's Ridley

Meet Ari our Kemp's ridley (Lepidochelys kempii) sea turtle. Ari - formerly known as Kate - arrived at the New England Aquarium on 9/9/09, after a rehabilitation stint in New Orleans at the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas (AAOA).

In June of 2007, Kate was found injured (suspected boat strike) on Rutherford Beach, Louisiana, and transferred to Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and the following day to AAOA.  Her injuries were assessed: fractured skull from eye to eye, left eye with missing tissue around the socket, an exposed salt gland, and a deep 5cm long dorsal scute laceration. In October she was transported to an orthopedic surgeon for an operation using rods and plates to pull the skull and scales up and together, in addition to have the laceration to her shell wired together.  By January of 2008, Kate was swimming and eating on her own!

The damage to her left eye was severe and permanent, and in the end she lost sight in that eye, making it very difficult for her to hunt live crab and capture it. Therefore, it was deemed she was non-releasable due to the fact that she could not fend for herself in the wild.

Word of this sea turtle needing a home made it to Boston, and before long she was on a flight to Logan airport for her introduction into the GOT!  So that's how we came to acquire Kate, whom we renamed Ari which is short for arribada: large-scale nesting of some species of sea turtles including Kemp's ridleys.
"During an arribada, hundreds of thousands of these 2-foot-long turtles (the smallest [sea turtles] in the world) gather off certain beaches, and over several days, come ashore to dig holes in the sand and lay eggs." — Susan Scott, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 28 Sept. 2009
Come see her swimming around the Giant Ocean Tank... if she's not napping of course ;-)

Kemp's ridley sea turtles are the smallest and most endangered species of sea turtle in the world. They are also the species of sea turtle our marine animal Rescue and Rehabilitation team treats most frequently during cold-stun stranding season. That's why it's great to be able to show visitors what this species looks like! They are much more petite than the other species on exhibit—loggerhead and green sea turtles. And Ari definitely has a personality.

Come meet Ari and learn what it takes to rescue sea turtles during our Turtle Rescue Team program this summer!



Hungry Hungry Loggerheads

In our Giant Ocean Tank we currently have two species of sea turtles — green and loggerheads. Each species gets their own feeding station, and our loggerheads — Carolina and Retread — are fed at the bottom of the tank, in what we GOT divers call "turtle alley".  Each morning at 10:00 AM we feed them a specified amount of "squid tacos", our jargon for squid stuffed with fish, usually capelin.

Come along on a snapshot journey of a feeding I did just this week.

The squid tacos are prepared and put in red bags, one for each turtle.  Other tools needed are... 1 pair of gloves (for safety), 1 feeding stick and 1 rattle - a PVC pipe filled with nuts and bolts and capped on both ends to make it waterproof.

Then it's time to head underwater and down to the feeding station in "turtle alley".  As soon as I break the surface and look down, I see that both girls are awake and likely hungry.

As I descend to the bottom I begin shaking the rattle... while clearing my ears and staying aware of my surroundings.

Carolina is the first to arrive, and she looks hungry!  I continue to shake the PVC rattle.

I get my 2 red bags situated in the sand, ready to feed the turtles.

But oops, Carolina gets confused and goes the wrong direction.  I shake the rattle some more.

After a minute of her not understanding where she's supposed to go, I lend a hand and pull her in.

One squid taco for you!

Both sea turtles get vitamins along with their meal - I use my hands to guard the squid taco from getting stolen by a thieving fish.

Though as soon as I turn my head, an Atlantic spadefish swoops in and steals one of the capelin, argh!

Retread still hasn't shown up by the time Carolina has finished her meal, but I look up and see her above me so I head up in the water column to help her down to the feeding station.

Carolina doesn't think her meal is over though.  She gets in my face for more squid tacos please!

Retread is certainly hungry and she eats her whole meal.  She is completely blind so in order to feed her you must tap her on the chin and then present the taco in front of her mouth.  Sometimes, she'll just bite at the water hoping to snag something.

Success - feeding is over and I head back up to the surface... [Watch video of loggerhead feeding time here!]

...And wave at some kids on the way up of course.

As I said we feed our loggerheads daily at 10:00 AM, so for your next visit come early and look for us through the GOT windows on the first floor.