Featured News

C.A.R.E Center is Awarded Funding for Medical Equipment

October 4th, 2021

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The Gulfarium C.A.R.E. Center has been awarded a grant for $20,306.25 from the Florida Sea Turtle Grants Program. The C.A.R.E Center received the grant to help purchase a new digital radiograph (DR) x-ray machine. This new item will benefit sea turtles in NW Florida and Alabama. Since purchasing the DR x-ray plate the C.A.R.E. Center has already successfully completed radiographs on 31 rehabilitated sea turtles, ranging in size from juvenile green sea turtles to adult loggerheads. The DR machine enables the animal care technicians at the C.A.R.E. Center to view an x-ray image instantaneously after taking the photo. This process gives the animal care team real time information allowing for instant analysis.  
 
The Gulfarium C.A.R.E. Center was chosen for the award through a competitive application process that is open to coastal county governments, educational institutions and Florida-based nonprofit groups striving to improve the livelihood of sea turtles and conserve Florida habitats.
 
Launched in 1996, the "Helping Sea Turtles Survive" specialty license plate raises money for two important programs that benefit Florida sea turtles - the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission's Marine Turtle Protection Program and the Sea Turtle Grants Program, which distributes money back to the local level for turtle conservation projects. The sea turtle specialty plate is currently number two in sales, having sold 66,696 plates in 2010 – second only to the University of Florida specialty plate.
 
"It's rewarding to know that so many people share our concern for Florida's sea turtles," said David Godfrey, Sea Turtle Conservancy Executive Director. "What we do in this state has a dramatic impact on sea turtle populations around the world. By purchasing the sea turtle specialty plate, Floridians are voluntarily funding important programs to save these amazing creatures." To learn more about the Sea Turtle Grants Program and the "Helping Sea Turtles Survive" specialty license plate, please visit www.helpingseaturtles.org. 

Seven Sea Turtles Released After Rehabilitation

September 24th, 2021

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The Gulfarium's C.A.R.E. Center successfully released seven rehabilitated sea turtles on Friday, September 24, 2021 Saint George Island, Florida.

Tabitha Siegfried, Stranding Coordinator for the Gulfarium C.A.R.E. Center gently situated the rehabilitated turtles into the C.A.R.E. van to make the four-hour trek to Saint George Island, Florida. "It is quite a ways to go from our facility for this particular release, but many of the turtles are repeat offenders, meaning they have been previously hooked at piers, so the further away we go for release, we hope will give them a better opportunity at avoiding an accidental re-capture in the future." states Tabitha. 

The seven turtles, ranging in weight from 26 - 106 lbs. were released today after successful rehabilitations at the C.A.R.E. Center. All seven turtles (five sub-adult loggerheads and two juvenile green sea turtles) were accidently hooked by fishermen at local fishing piers. "We continue to see the majority of the turtles come in due to overlaps with recreational fishing, and we feel good for the turtles, the environment, and the fisherman that people are not cutting the line. Most of the time, if a turtle has an external hook or entanglement, we also find them internally. Some need surgery to remove while others pass the internal monofilament on their own under medical supervision. If you are fishing, whether from a pier or a boat, and a turtle appears, consider reeling in your line and moving to another location to avoid accidentally hooking or entangling the turtle. It is a collaborative effort to ensure the future generations of these remarkable sea turtles" states Will Merrill, President at the Gulfarium C.A.R.E. Center. 

All turtles were given a clean bill of health and approved to be released though FWC officials and the C.A.R.E. veterinarian and animal care team. 

131 Loggerhead Hatchlings Released by C.A.R.E. Center

September 14th, 2021

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The Gulfarium C.A.R.E. Center teamed up with local freediving company, Benthic Ocean Sports to successfully release 131 loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings on Tuesday morning, September 14th, 2021.
 
It was a cloudy morning as the C.A.R.E. Center and Mike Pooler from Benthic Ocean Sports set out for a long offshore boat ride, searching for weedlines to release the loggerhead hatchlings. The hatchlings arrived at the center following the severe weather caused by Hurricane Ida. They were taken care of by the C.A.R.E. Center team until the Gulf of Mexico conditions were more favorable and weedlines were present. 
 
“Giving these hatchlings a second chance at survival is a great feeling," states Tabitha Siegfried, Stranding Coordinator at the Gulfarium C.A.R.E. Center. "It is estimated that only 1 in 1,000 hatchlings will survive to adulthood; so being able to get them offshore and into the ideal habitat for their life stage following the storm was so important.”  

C.A.R.E. Center Releases Five Rehabilitated Sea Turtles

August 19th, 2021

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The Gulfarium's C.A.R.E. Center successfully released five rehabilitated sea turtles on Thursday morning, August 19, 2021 at Inlet Beach, Florida.

It was a beautiful morning as the Gulfarium C.A.R.E. Center released some of it's recent sea turtle patients, consisting of three different species of turtle, including three Kemp's ridley sea turtles, one loggerhead sea turtle and one green sea turtle. "We were delighted to release these turtles back into the Gulf of Mexico. All species of sea turtle are endangered, with the Kemp's ridley sea turtle being the most endangered, so being able to rehabilitate these animals and release them back into the Gulf to help preserve the species is so rewarding" states Patrick Berry, Director of the Gulfarium C.A.R.E. Center. 

The five sea turtles, ranging in weight from 20 - 95 lbs. were released today after successful rehabilitations at the C.A.R.E. Center. All five turtles were accidently hooked by fishermen at local fishing piers within the past two weeks. "We were happy to see that each of these turtles only needed short stays with us. Mercury, Twilight, Saturn and Blackfin all had clear x-rays showing no ingested debris so were cleared for release once the external hooks were removed. Pluto had a J-hook within his esophagus that was non-surgically removed before being ready to head back into the Gulf" states Tabitha Siegfried, Stranding Coordinator at the Gulfarium C.A.R.E. Center. 

All turtles were given a clean bill of health and approved to be released though FWC officials and the C.A.R.E. veterinarian and animal care team. The C.A.R.E. Center continues to have several other turtles currently undergoing rehabilitation and the team expect this season to continue to be a busy one for sea turtle rescue, rehabilitation, and release.   

Nine Endangered Sea Turtles Released After Rehabilitation at C.A.R.E. Center

July 13th, 2021

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The Gulfarium's C.A.R.E. Center successfully released nine rehabilitated sea turtles on Tuesday morning, July 13, 2021 at Inlet Beach, Florida.

It was a cloudy but beautiful morning as the Gulfarium C.A.R.E. Center released its recent sea turtle patients consisting of three different species of turtle, including four Loggerhead sea turtles, three Green sea turtles, and two Kemps Ridley sea turtles. It was the second public-invited release in over a year due to COVID-19, "We had a large group of rehabilitated sea turtles going out this morning. Although the release site, Inlet Beach, was a bit farther away from our home base than the last release, we still had a good crowd of spectators. Sharing these moments with our supporters will never get old and is a rewarding part of what we do here at the CARE Center - public awareness, education, and involvement" states Patrick Berry, Director of the Gulfarium CARE Center. 

Nine turtles total, ranging in weight from 7.5 - 189 lbs. were among those released today after successful rehabilitations at the Center. Once again, the common ailment with these turtles was being accidentally hooked at nearby fishing piers and additional hook and entanglement removal procedures. "We were happy to see that Jaime, an adult female Loggerhead weighing in at 189 lbs. needed just a short stay with us, as she is of breeding age, so getting her back out into the Gulf of Mexico to potentially mate and lay a nest is what makes our efforts come full circle" states Tabitha Siegfried, Stranding Coordinator at the Gulfarium CARE Center. The team at the Gulfarium CARE Center expect this season to continue to be a busy one for sea turtle rescue, rehabilitation, and release.   

Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park Welcomes California Sea Lion Pup

July 1st, 2021

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The staff at Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park determined Monday that the newest and ninth addition to its California sea lion community is a healthy girl, weighing 16.5 pounds. The unnamed sea lion pup was born Friday, but staff gave the pup and her mother, Tabby, space and time to nurse and bond before weighing her and determining the gender.
 
"What made Friday even more special was that Tabby turned 8 that day, meaning she and her pup will share a June 25 birthday", said Bryan Martin, one of the Gulfarium's directors of animal management.

“We're really, really grateful for the pup,” Martin said. “Mom is doing a great job, so really it's just doing observations and then making sure mom has what she needs. We give her food — however much she wants — until she tells us she's done, and she takes care of the rest.”

Mary Kate Northup, Operations Manager at the marine park, said it likely will be several months before the pup is available for public viewing. People can follow Gulfarium’s Facebook or Instagram for “pup-dates.”

Tabby is an experienced mother.

This was Tabby’s second pup born at the Gulfarium. Her first was Maddie, who arrived June 17, 2019 — summer births are common for sea lions, Martin said. Maddie now gives presentations and meets guests.

“Tabby was excellent when she had Maddie, so we followed what we had done with her before,” Martin said. “We have a maternity suite, which we built specifically for her. There's a pool and then there's a decking space we can close off so it doesn't have any access to the water, so Tabby can feel more secure and not worry about the pup wandering around too much.”

Friday, when Tabby started showing signs of losing her appetite, which is normal for a female sea lion before she goes into labor, staff decided she would spend the night in the dry closed-off area, where she would feel secure. They had a watch team check her behaviors regularly to indicate if a pup was on its way.

“They ended up calling me, letting me know that Tabby was making some of what we call ‘pup calls,” Martin said. “I came in, it was about 3:30 in the morning, and she went into labor and had this new pup within 22 minutes — whereas the first time, it actually was three days in advance that we started hearing her do pup calls. So she is so experienced, she sped the process up.”

It was a special experience for Martin.

“It's a part of our careers as animal care professionals, but you just don't know if it's ever gonna happen,” Martin said. “We're always excited for it. We love all of the animals that we get to work with, but to be around and know that you've been caring for Tabby, Eli, the other sea lions, to see them end up having children of their own and then you get to watch that pup or that baby penguin grow up is really so special, because you knew that animal from the start and it’s just amazing. It's an amazing experience.”

The birth was quick, Martin said. And like other mammals, sea lions have an umbilicus, or a belly button, and it broke like it should, he said.

“The pup started to immediately vocalize, showing us all signs that things are great,” Martin said. “Tabby immediately turned around and started nosing and nuzzling the pup, calling to it, being very protective of it, showing everything that we're hoping for a successful mom.”

The pup nursed within the first hour. Then, three hours after the pup was born, Tabby passed the placenta. They collected and froze samples for testing and determining which sea lion was the father. There are three viable options, but they suspect the father of the new pup is the same as Maddie’s: Eli.

Right now, the staff will give the mother and daughter space, Martin said. Tabby has the option of jumping over a blocker into a water, which is what gave them the opportunity to weigh the pup, Martin said.

“If she wants to break out and stretch out, just like a sea lion in the ocean would,” Martin said. “Mom would go back to the ocean and the pup would hang out on the beach, we've created the exact same situation.”

When they start to show a little bit more independence with each other, the staff will let Tabby join the other sea lions for small time increments.

“That gives the pup a chance to play in the pools that we have back here,” Martin said. “We can start doing some swim classes, where we let the pup play and we have our staff hanging out in the water, which is also fun for our staff. We’ll start to offer small fish and fish pieces so the pup can investigate and start to play and learn to eat fish. So we really follow a natural progression in terms of mom going out, grabbing some more fish, coming back and taking care of the pup more often in the evening. It’s a great system we have here. And it's a great celebration for our staff and the whole Gulfarium team.”

The new pup's name is still under wraps.

“Now that we know (gender), we put that out there and we're giving the staff a chance to maybe think about the names that might mean something to them or make sense in terms of California sea lion natural history,” Martin said. “And then we'll all come together and we'll choose one that we all like.”

Six Rehabilitated Sea Turtles Successfully Released by C.A.R.E. Center

June 24th, 2021

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The Gulfarium's C.A.R.E. Center successfully released six rehabilitated sea turtles on Thursday morning, June 24, 2021 at Henderson Beach State Park in Destin.

It was a beautiful morning as the Gulfarium C.A.R.E. Center released some of it's recent sea turtle patients. It was the first public-invited release in over a year due to COVID-19, "We were delighted to conduct our first public sea turtle release since the pandemic began. We had several releases during 2020 but to be able to finally have large crowds experience these events since 2019 was exciting for all" states Patrick Berry, Director of the Gulfarium CARE Center. Crowds of several hundred cheered as each sea turtle was placed at the water's edge and made their way into the Gulf of Mexico from the beach one-by-one. 

Five sub-adult Loggerheads, ranging in weight from 70 - 95 lbs., and one juvenile Green sea turtle weighing 20 lbs. were among those released today after successful rehabilitations at the Center. The common ailment with these turtles was being accidentally hooked at nearby fishing piers and additional hook removal procedures. Stays at the Gulfarium from this particular group were shorter than usual, ranging from one week to almost a month. All turtles were given a clean bill of health and approved to be released though FWC officials and the CARE veterinarian and animal care team. The CARE Center continues to have several other turtles currently undergoing rehabilitation. 

Gulfarium C.A.R.E. Center Successfully Released Four Rehabilitated Sea Turtles

May 27th, 2021

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The Gulfarium's C.A.R.E. Center successfully released four rehabilitated sea turtles on Thursday morning, May 27th, 2021 at Topsail Hill Preserve State Park off of West County Highway 30A.

It was a beautiful morning as the Gulfarium C.A.R.E. Center released some of it's recent patients. "It is always so rewarding when we release the sea turtles back into the Gulf," states Will Merrill, President of the Gulfarium. "All species of sea turtle are endangered so we are passionate about doing everything we can to help these animals. We have now entered sea turtle nesting season so we expect we will start to see an increase in the number of turtles visiting the C.A.R.E. Center."

The first turtle to be released was Rudolph, a juvenile green sea turtle weighing 34.8lbs, who was hooked in it's mouth at Navarre Beach Fishing Pier on May 21st, 2021. The hook was carefully removed after arrival at the C.A.R.E. Center and radiographs showed no other ingested foreign debris so Rudolph was quickly cleared for release after a short recovery.

Gourdon, a juvenile green sea turtle weighing in at 33.7lbs, was the second to be released after recently arriving at the C.A.R.E. Center on May 24th, 2021. This was Gourdon's third visit to the center for rehabilitation but on this visit, the C.A.R.E. team were pleased to discover that despite being foul hooked in the right front flipper, there was no ingested foreign debris and the green sea turtle was quickly ready to head back into the Gulf. 

Phoebe was next to be released back into the Gulf of Mexico. This sub-adult loggerhead was found floating and lethargic at Navarre Beach Fishing Pier on February 26th, 2021. Initially, there were no signs of life, but she took a breath during rescue and was quickly transported to the C.A.R.E. Center sea turtle hospital for emergency treatment. Phoebe suffered from pneumonia, GI issues, and anemia so was started on antibiotics and supportive fluids. After 4 months of rest and recovery she was able to return to the Gulf.

Seaweed, another sub-adult loggerhead was the final turtle to be released. Seaweed was foul hooked at Navarre Beach Fishing Pier on April 24th, 2021. She had a full blood testing panel upon arrival at the C.A.R.E. Center and the team were glad to see that all of her levels were normal. However, Seaweed was a slow swimmer and underweight when arriving to the center so she received a month of rest, relaxation, and close monitoring before being cleared for release.

Gulfarium C.A.R.E. Center Releases Eight Cold-Stunned Sea Turtles

February 25th, 2021

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The Gulfarium C.A.R.E. Center in Northwest Florida released eight Kemp’s ridley sea turtles into the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday, February 25th, 2021. 

The sea turtles arrived at the C.A.R.E. Center on Monday, December 14th, 2020 after being stranded off the coast of New England during a mass cold-stun event. The turtles were released in Cape San Blas, as required by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). 

Cold stunning occurs when a sea turtle is exposed to cold water for an extended period of time. This exposure causes their heartrate to decrease, resulting in the turtle becoming lethargic and often unable to eat. Unfortunately, cold stunning events, where large numbers of sea turtles become stranded, are not unusual in Northern areas during the months of November through February as water temperatures drop below 50 degrees.

Upon arrival at the C.A.R.E. Center, the veterinary team assessed each individual turtle, took x-rays and determined the best plan of action to care for these endangered animals. All of the sea turtles received antibiotics during their rehabilitation to aid in their recovery. Once all sea turtles were doing well, had gained weight and were able to eat without assistance, they were deemed ready for release by the FWC. 

 “We are so grateful to have been able to help these sea turtles,” states Terra Throgmmorton, Gulfarium’s Medical and Stranding Coordinator. “Kemp’s ridleys are the most endangered species of sea turtle in the world, so anything that we can do to try to conserve this precious species is vital. We are so thankful for everyone involved who has helped us to provide the best possible veterinary care for these turtles that came to us from the Northeastern seaboard of the Atlantic due to a cold-stun event"

Two Endangered African Penguin Chicks Hatch at Gulfarium

December 22nd, 2020

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Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park is celebrating the holidays by announcing two new additions to their endangered African penguin family. The first chick hatched at the Gulfarium, located on Okaloosa Island in Fort Walton Beach, on December 13th, 2020, with the second following close behind, just four days later.  
 
These penguin chicks will bring the number of chicks in the Gulfarium's penguin colony that were born to parents, Ninja and Jelly, to six. Ninja and Jelly's first chick, Becky, hatched in December 2016 and quickly became a well-known member of the Gulfarium's animal family. Becky's brother, Toto, hatched on September 12th, 2018, Timmy, their third chick hatched on December 23rd, 2019, and Sami hatched in March 2020.

In order to allow the adult penguins the opportunity to provide the best possible care for the chicks, the first hatched is being raised by its parents, Ninja and Jelly, and the second hatched chick is currently being raised by surrogate parents, mated pair Becky and Mooshu. Becky and Mooshu successfully raised their first hatched chick, Tin, in February of this year.

The chicks are currently out in the Gulfarium’s penguin habitat but visitors to the park are unlikely to spot the new additions as they will stay protected and kept warm underneath their parents within the viewable penguin huts. The chicks will be raised by the adult penguins for the first 3 weeks of their lives but will be moved off exhibit once they become more mobile until they have grown their waterproof feathers and learned how to swim.

“We are extremely happy with the progress that these young chicks have made so far,” states Patrick Berry, Gulfarium’s Senior Vice President. “Our animal care specialists monitor the growth of the chicks with frequent weight checks to ensure that everything is going well. These African penguins are an endangered species so our team is doing everything we can to not only protect this species from extinction, but also teach our guests about what they can do to help. Through the experiences and education that we provide here at the Gulfarium, we hope to inspire our guests to respect and love wildlife as much as we do."
 
The public is invited to follow the chick's progress on Gulfarium's Facebook page.  All updates, including milestones will be made available via Facebook.

C.A.R.E. Center to Rehabilitate Cold-Stunned Turtles

December 14th, 2020

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The Gulfarium C.A.R.E. Center in Northwest Florida has taken in twelve Kemp’s ridley sea turtles that were recently stranded off the coast of New England during a recent mass cold-stun event. The sea turtles made the trip down from Massachusetts to Florida on Monday, December 14th, 2020.

The C.A.R.E. Center would like to thank Turtles Fly Too and their pilots Chuck Yanke and Julie Tromblay for transporting the sea turtles to the local area by private plane, where they were then collected and immediately taken to the C.A.R.E. Center for rehabilitation.

Cold stunning occurs when a sea turtle is exposed to cold water for an extended period of time. This exposure causes their heartrate to decrease, resulting in the turtle becoming lethargic and often unable to eat. Unfortunately, cold stunning events, where large numbers of sea turtles become stranded, are not unusual in Northern areas during the months of November through February as water temperatures drop below 50 degrees.

Upon arrival at the C.A.R.E. Center, the veterinary team assessed each individual turtle, took x-rays and determined the best plan of action to care for these endangered animals. These sea turtles will stay at the C.A.R.E. Center for rehabilitation until they are deemed releasable by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). The recovery process can take up to a few months for cold-stunned turtles, but once their health has improved they will be released into the Gulf of Mexico.

 “We are so grateful to be able to help these sea turtles from the Northeastern seaboard of the Atlantic due to a cold-stun event they recently experienced ,” explains Terra Throgmmorton, Gulfarium’s Medical and Stranding Coordinator. “Kemp’s ridleys are the most endangered species of sea turtle in the world, so anything that we can do to try to conserve this precious species is vital. We are so thankful for everyone involved who has helped us to provide the best possible veterinary care for these turtles.”

Rehabilitated Sea Turtles Successfully Released

October 27th, 2020

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The Gulfarium's C.A.R.E. Center successfully released four rehabilitated sea turtles on Tuesday afternoon, October 27th, 2020 at Topsail Hill Preserve State Park off of West County Highway 30A.

Despite the rainy weather, there were smiling faces all around as the Gulfarium C.A.R.E. Center released some of it's recent patients. "It's been an extremely busy sea turtle season for our C.A.R.E team," states Will Merrill, Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park's president. "Watching the turtles head back out into the Gulf is always an exciting and joyous event for all!"
 
All four sea turtles that were released were juvenile greens that had been reported by fishermen at Navarre Beach Fishing Pier. 

The first turtle to be released was Pinny, weighing 42.5lbs, who was hooked in the mouth on September 25th, 2020. The hook fell out prior to arrival to the C.A.R.E. Center but radiographs showed two ingested hooks and a fishing swivel in her intestines. These items all passed naturally without the need for surgery. This was Pinny's fifth visit to the C.A.R.E. Center, with her first visit back in 2018.
 
Blackfin was next to be released back into the Gulf. This sea turtle was found entangled in fishing line, wrapped around pier piling on July 12th, 2020. Fortunately, radiographs revealed that no foreign debris or fishing gear had been ingested by the turtle but he did need to be treated for pneumonia before being ready for release. 
 
The two smallest turtles, Dot and Links, weighing 11lbs and 9.5lbs, were both released at the same time. Dot was superficially hooked in the left front flipper on October 15th, 2020. The hook was removed and radiographs showed no other ingested marine debris or fishing gear so Dot was quickly ready for release. This was Dot's second visit to the C.A.R.E. Center, with her first stay lasting from June 28th through August 24th, 2020 due to receiving surgery for the removal of a hook from her esophagus.

Links arrived at the C.A.R.E. Center on October 8th, 2020 after being hooked in the mouth by fishermen. The hook was removed upon arrival to the center and radiographs revealed no ingested foreign debris. "Links arrived at the C.A.R.E. Center with a missing rear right flipper," explains Terra Throgmorton, Gulfarium's Medical & Stranding Coordinator. "This was from a previously healed traumatic injury which also resulted a an injured carapace. We monitored the wound and were very happy with how well it healed!"

Gulfarium C.A.R.E. Center is Awarded Funding by the Sea Turtle Grants Program

October 23rd, 2020

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In April, The Gulfarium C.A.R.E. Center received a grant for $7,858.27 from the Florida Sea Turtle Grants Program. The C.A.R.E Center received the grant to help purchase a new stainless steel surgery table, a secure narcotic medication safe, a stainless steel utility cart and a surgical light system for their sea turtle rehabilitation hospital. These new items will benefit sea turtles in NW Florida and Alabama.
 
The Gulfarium C.A.R.E. Center was chosen for the award through a competitive application process that is open to coastal county governments, educational institutions and Florida-based nonprofit groups striving to improve the livelihood of sea turtles and conserve Florida habitats.
 
Launched in 1996, the "Helping Sea Turtles Survive" specialty license plate raises money for two important programs that benefit Florida sea turtles - the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission's Marine Turtle Protection Program and the Sea Turtle Grants Program, which distributes money back to the local level for turtle conservation projects. The sea turtle specialty plate is currently number two in sales, having sold 66,696 plates in 2010 – second only to the University of Florida specialty plate.
 
"It's rewarding to know that so many people share our concern for Florida's sea turtles," said David Godfrey, Sea Turtle Conservancy Executive Director. "What we do in this state has a dramatic impact on sea turtle populations around the world. By purchasing the sea turtle specialty plate, Floridians are voluntarily funding important programs to save these amazing creatures." To learn more about the Sea Turtle Grants Program and the "Helping Sea Turtles Survive" specialty license plate, please visit www.helpingseaturtles.org
 
The Gulfarium CARE Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, is proud to act as a beacon for coastal conservation through marine animal rescue and rehabilitation. Donations are tax-deductible and can be made online on the C.A.R.E. Center's page. 

C.A.R.E. Center Successfully Released Three Rehabilitated Sea Turtles

July 18th, 2020

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The Gulfarium's C.A.R.E. Center successfully released three rehabilitated sea turtles early Friday morning, July 17th, 2020 at Grayton Beach State Park off of East County Highway 30A.
 
It's been a busy sea turtle season for the Gulfarium C.A.R.E. team, who has been working hard to rehabilitate many sick and injured sea turtles in their newly expanded C.A.R.E. Center, which is now viewable by visitors to Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park. The immediate release of three turtles was a joyous and rewarding event for all.
 
The first turtle to be released was Peep, a juvenile green sea turtle, who was foul-hooked in the front right shoulder by fishermen at Navarre Beach Fishing Pier on June 4th, 2020. The hook was removed upon arrival to the C.A.R.E. Center but radiographs showed an ingested hook in her esophagus. Surgery to remove the ingested hook was performed on June 8th and, following a smooth and successful recovery, Peep was cleared for release back into the Gulf of Mexico. 
 
Uncle Sam, a juvenile green sea turtle weighing 47lbs, was next to be released. This sea turtle was foul-hooked in the front left flipper by a fisherman at Navarre Beach Fishing Pier and arrived at the C.A.R.E. Center on May 29th, 2020. Radiographs revealed that a fishing hook had been ingested and that surgery would be required for removal. Following a successful surgery on June 4th, the C.A.R.E. team closely monitored his suture site to ensure healing before he was ready for release. This was Uncle Sam's second visit to the C.A.R.E. Center, previously arriving on July 4th, 2018. 
 
The final sea turtle to be released was Oreo, a 115lb sub-adult loggerhead. Oreo was hooked in her tongue by fishermen at Navarre Beach Fishing Pier on July 14th, 2020. With the use of light sedation, the C.A.R.E. team was able to remove the hook without surgery. An excellent body condition and unremarkable radiographs showing no internal foreign objects, meant that Oreo was quickly ready to head back into the Gulf. "This wasn't Oreo's first visit to the C.A.R.E. Center," explains Terra Throgmorton, Gulfarium's Medical & Stranding Coordinator. "She had previously stranded on May 3rd, 2019, and was released on June 24th, 2019. Since her initial visit with us, this turtle has grown 7cm and gained 31lbs in weight!"
 
If you see a sea turtle in distress, injured, or deceased please report it to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission immediately at 1-888-404-FWCC (1-888-404-3922). 
 
Follow the C.A.R.E. Center on Facebook to learn more about sea turtles and the center's rehabilitation efforts.  

The Gulfarium CARE Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, is proud to act as a beacon for coastal conservation through marine animal rescue and rehabilitation. Donations are tax-deductible and can be made online on the C.A.R.E. Center's page.

Six Rehabilitated Sea Turtles Successfully Released By Gulfarium C.A.R.E. Center

June 30th, 2020

Photo for Six Rehabilitated Sea Turtles Successfully Released By Gulfarium C.A.R.E. Center
The Gulfarium's C.A.R.E. Center successfully released six rehabilitated sea turtles early Tuesday morning, June 30th, 2020 at Grayton Beach State Park off of East County Highway 30A.
 
All six of the rehabilitated sea turtles fell victim to ingested marine debris in the Gulf or fishing equipment related injuries. Their time of stay in rehabilitation at the C.A.R.E. Center varied. 
 
The first turtle to be released was Damsel, a sub-adult green sea turtle, who was foul-hooked in the front left flipper by fishermen at Navarre Beach Fishing Pier on June 29th, 2020. The hook was removed and radiographs showed that no foreign debris had been ingest so Damsel was quickly ready for release back into the Gulf.
 
Tyrell and Flick, two juvenile green sea turtles, were next to be released. Both turtles were found near Navarre Beach Fishing Pier in mid-June. Tyrell was foul-hooked by fishermen with a double barbed j-hook in the right front flipper. Flick had fishing line wrapped around both front shoulders and had become entangled to the pier piling. There was also a large hook embedded into his right front flipper. The juvenile Green sea turtles received clean bills of health, and were quickly ready for release after the removal of the hooks and fishing line.
 
Claudia, the fourth sea turtle to be released by the Gulfarium C.A.R.E. Center team, was discovered near Okaloosa Island Fishing Pier on June 5th, 2020. This 112lb sub-adult loggerhead was found with roughly 3lbs of fishing gear (including a fishing rod, full sabiki rig, multiple types of lines and weights) trailing from her. With the help of Okaloosa Pier Staff, she was rescued and brought to the C.A.R.E. Center. This was Claudia's second visit to the center. She was previously found slightly east of the Okaloosa Island Fishing Pier on September 13th, 2019 with fishing line severely entangling her front right shoulder, as well as a fishing lure caught in her front right flipper. "Incidental capture in fishing line is one of the greatest threats to sea turtles," states Terra Throgmorton, Gulfarium's Medical & Stranding Coordinator. "If such an event occurs, please do not cut the line and let the turtle swim away. Call Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) at 1-888-404-FWCC (3922) for immediate direction on what to do. Also, make sure to dispose of all fishing gear correctly as discarded fishing debris has the potential to become severely entangled, which could result in limb amputations, drowning, or even death."

Shimano was the next turtle to head back into the Gulf of Mexico. This 40lb Kemp's ridley sea turtle was hooked by fishermen at Navarre Beach Fishing Pier on June 11th, 2020. Radiographs showed that no debris had been ingested and, following the removal of the hook from Shimano's mouth, he was ready for release.

The final sea turtle to be released was Mahogany, a 100lb sub-adult loggerhead. Mahogany was caught by fishermen at Navarre Beach Fishing Pier on May 23rd, 2020. In addition to fishing line protruding from her mouth, there was line entangled around her front left shoulder and flipper. Radiographs revealed a large gauge hook located in her esophagus, as well as two fishing hooks in her intestines. Surgery was required to remove the large gauge hook from her esophagus but she was able to pass the two intestinal hooks on her own. The C.A.R.E. team closely monitored her suture site to ensure healing and provided nutritional support to aid weight gain before she was deemed ready for release. "We are very thankful for the responsible fishermen and pier staff for taking the correct steps to rescue this turtle," explains Will Merrill, President of the Gulfarium. "All species of sea turtle are endangered so we are passionate about doing everything we can to help these animals. We couldn't be happier that these turtles were able to be released back into the Gulf. I am proud of our team and their commitment to give sea turtles second chances"
 
Follow the C.A.R.E. Center on Facebook to learn more about sea turtles and the center's rehabilitation efforts.  

The Gulfarium CARE Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, is proud to act as a beacon for coastal conservation through marine animal rescue and rehabilitation. Donations are tax-deductible and can be made online on the C.A.R.E. Center's page.

Two African Penguin Chicks Hatch at Gulfarium

March 1st, 2020

Photo for Two African Penguin Chicks Hatch at Gulfarium
Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park has been busy this year hatching and caring for baby penguins. Since December 20th, 2019, three African penguins have hatched, while another egg is being monitored. Timmy was the first of the three hatched in December, but two new penguins were born on February 15th and 18th.

Becky, a visitor favorite at the Gulfarium, hatched at the park in 2016 and laid her first ever clutch of eggs with mate Mooshu at the start of this year. As these are Becky's first chicks, one chick will be looked after by Ninja and Jelly, Becky's parents while Becky concentrates fully on raising her first ever chick. The chicks will be raised by the adult penguins for the first 3 weeks of their lives but will be moved off exhibit once they become more mobile until they have grown their waterproof feathers and learned how to swim.

At just three months old, Timmy, Becky's brother who hatched back in December 2019, has reached his full height and weight. Now that Timmy has his waterproof coat, he will begin swimming classes. Bryan Martin, Gulfarium's Director of Animal Management, states how important it is to monitor the pace for the penguins chicks, so the Gulfarium will adjust care based on Timmy’s needs.

The African penguin is an endangered species, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. African penguins, known for their “tuxedo look,” live off the coast of Africa, where oil spills can be very problematic for the birds.

Martin said many people assume penguins ingest the oil, but the real issue is that the oil removes their waterproof coating, removing their ability to swim and find food. “Their biggest threat is pollution and also overfishing,” Martin said. The Gulfarium is one of several facilities all over the country working to increase the number of penguins through breeding programs and genetic diversity. “We have to give them a chance to come back,” he said.

Endangered African Penguin Chick Born at Gulfarium

January 20th, 2020

Photo for Endangered African Penguin Chick Born at Gulfarium
Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park celebrated Penguin Awareness Day in the best way possible, by announcing a new addition to their endangered African penguin family. The Gulfarium, located on Okaloosa Island in Fort Walton Beach, revealed that a penguin chick hatched at the park on December 20th, 2019.
 
The penguin chick was raised by surrogate penguin parents, Missy and Tubbs, for the first three weeks of his life. "Once an egg is laid, we remove it from the nest and replace it with a fake egg for the adult penguins to sit on. This is so that we can closely monitor the development of the fetus. We give fake eggs to multiple of our mated pairs to encourage them to learn how to care for an egg. Once the chick hatches, we place it in the nest with the surrogate parents and remove their fake egg. In the wild, it is not uncommon for eggs to not develop, so the penguins who do not receive the chick, simply remove the fake egg from their nest when it does not hatch," explains Bryan Martin, Director of Animal Management. "As Ninja and Jelly have successfully raised a chick in the past, we gave Missy and Tubbs the opportunity to learn, under staff supervision. Our animal care specialists would monitor the growth of the chick with frequent weight checks. Now we have further pairs of adult penguins that know how to successfully raise a chick in case we ever have 2 eggs hatch around the same time. " 
 
"African penguins are an endangered species," says Mary Kate Northup, Gulfarium's Operations Manager. "They are at serious risk of extinction, so any effort we can do to help preserve the species is vital. Penguin Awareness Day is the perfect way to educate the public on how we can help to protect this wonderful species." The wild African penguin population has decreased at the alarming rate of over sixty percent in the last 30 years. 
 
This penguin chick will be the third chick in the Gulfarium's penguin colony that was born to parents, Ninja and Jelly. Ninja and Jelly's first chick, Becky, hatched in December 2016 and quickly became a well-known member of the Gulfarium's animal family. Becky's brother, Toto, hatched on September 12th, 2018 and recently completed his first molt, where his  juvenile feathers were shed and replaced with his tuxedo-style, black and white adult feathers. 
 
"Our team is doing everything we can to not only protect this species from extinction, but also teach our guests about what they can do to help. Through the experiences and education that we provide here at the Gulfarium, we hope to inspire our guests to respect and love wildlife as much as we do." says Patrick Berry, Gulfarium's Senior Vice President. 
 
The Gulfarium anticipates that the chick will begin to grow his waterproof feathers in just a little over a month and shortly thereafter, be ready to learn how to swim so that he can be out on exhibit with the rest of the penguin colony. 
 
The public is invited to follow the chick's progress on Gulfarium's Facebook page.  All updates, including milestones will be made available via Facebook.
 

Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park Introduces New Harbor Seal

November 7th, 2019

Photo for Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park Introduces New Harbor Seal
Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park is very pleased to announce the addition of a new Harbor seal to the park's resident animal family.
The female seal, named Zoey, arrived at the park in mid-October after transport from another zoological facility. Zoey was originally rescued off the coast of Massachusetts on November 22nd, 2009, and deemed non-releasable due to reoccurring infections. She has most recently been cared for at the Aquarium of Niagara. 
 
"We are very happy about this new addition," states Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park's President, Will Merrill III. "Zoey is the mother of Zara, a Harbor seal already living here at the Gulfarium, so we are excited to reunite and have them both with us."
 
Zoey, who currently weighs 130lbs, gave birth to Zara on July 13th, 2017. "Zoey has acclimated to her new surroundings very well," explains Bryan Martin, Director of Animal Management. "She arrived to us in great health and joined our group of 4 Harbor seals very quickly. Now that she has settled into her new habitat with our other seals, we are beginning a training program which includes husbandry and medical behaviors such as mouth examinations, and blood sampling in accordance with Gulfarium's animal care."
 
Visitors can view Zoey, along with 2-year old Zara, Milo, August and Ollie, in the Gulfarium's Seal Harbor habitat.

Baby Sea Lion Makes A Splash at Gulfarium

July 16th, 2019

Photo for Baby Sea Lion Makes A Splash at Gulfarium

A California sea lion pup has been born at Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park! The little pup was welcomed into the world June 17th, marking the first sea lion birth at the Gulfarium in over 10 years. This is also the first pup for 6-year old Tabby, making the event even more special.

Colleen Cassidy, Tabby’s trainer, said she was overjoyed about her “favorite” sea lion giving birth.

“I’m a grandma,” Cassidy said jokingly. “We found out that Tabby was pregnant in January. She was behaving oddly so we tested her blood and confirmed the pregnancy with an ultrasound.”

“Due to the way their bodies are, it’s sometimes hard to tell if sea lions are pregnant,” states Bryan Martin, Gulfarium’s Director of Animal Management. “Luckily, because we spend so much time with our animals, we learn to notice the little signs and behavioral changes.”

Towards the end of her pregnancy, Tabby was monitored by Gulfarium staff 24 hours a day.

“It’s amazing to have such dedicated staff,” Martin said. “I’m just so proud of our team and all the work that they do.”

For now, Tabby and the pup are spending close time together in an exhibit that was specially built for the pair. The pup is still learning how to swim, so she currently only has access to smaller pool. However, when the time is right, both Tabby and her pup will be with the other sea lions in the larger habitats.

Gulfarium's Endangered Penguin Chick Undergoes Surgery

May 27th, 2019

Photo for Gulfarium's Endangered Penguin Chick Undergoes Surgery
Within the first two months of hatching, one of the Gulfarium's new African penguin chicks began holding its ankles abnormally.

Following a series of medical examinations by the Gulfarium animal care and veterinary team, it was discovered that the tendons in the chick's legs were too loose, allowing the joint to slip out of place. Even though the issue was initially found in the right leg, it was soon determined that the left leg was also affected, but to a lesser degree.  With the leg joints slipping out of place, the penguin chick was unable to walk. Possible causes for the issue, as seen in other bird species, include a congenital defect, an abnormal growth rate or other undetermined causes.

Due to her inability to walk, Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park reached out to specialists in the Zoological Medicine Department at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine. A veterinary orthopedic surgeon there, Vanessa Ferraz, had experience with similar cases in other birds and penguins. It was decided that external fixators would be placed on the chick's legs which would allow the ankles to be held in position so that the tendon would not slip out of place. This solution would enable the penguin to walk, and have some range of motion as the legs continue to grow. Exercise would help develop the muscles of the legs, thus tightening the tendons.

A team of zoo veterinarians, residents, interns and vet students worked tirelessly to assist in the chick's surgeries and recovery.  During the healing process, the Integrative Medicine department, prescribed exercises to strengthen the muscles in the chick's legs and improve its ability to walk.

"We knew that surgery was necessary in order to give the chick a chance at a future and the ability to walk," states Dr. Rebecca Wells, Gulfarium's veterinarian. "The chick continues to thrive and is improving every day. We are very thankful to the team at University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine for their help on this case. We are cautiously optimistic that the chick will continue to thrive and enjoy the life of a normal penguin. We will continue to learn from this case in order to help this endangered species." 

The chick is currently undergoing rehabilitation at the Gulfarium while the animal care staff monitor its progress daily.
 
Updates on the chick's progress will be made available on Gulfarium's Facebook and Instagram pages.

Exceptionally Egg-citing Times for Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park

April 9th, 2019

Photo for Exceptionally Egg-citing Times for Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park
Some very egg-citing things have been happening behind the scenes at Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park. The park, located on Okaloosa Island in Fort Walton Beach, has announced the hatching of not one, but two African penguin chicks!

The first chick hatched on January 25th, 2019, with the second following close behind, just three days later. They have been hand-raised behind the scenes by the Gulfarium's well-trained animal care staff and are currently shedding their fluffy down, to be replaced by juvenile waterproof feathers.
 
"African penguins are an endangered species. They are facing imminent extinction without human intervention," explains Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park's President, Will Merrill III. "African penguins only lay two eggs per clutch, so we are extremely happy to have two healthy chicks."
 
The Gulfarium anticipates that the chicks will begin to integrate with the rest of their penguin colony in just a little over a month and shortly thereafter, be ready to make their debut to the public.
 
Four African Penguin chicks have now hatched at the Gulfarium since 2016. "We are extremely proud of our animal care team," states Patrick Berry, Gulfarium's Director. "They work around the clock for our chicks to ensure healthy development. When they first hatch, our penguin chicks are fed every 3 hours. It's a lot of work but any effort we can do to help preserve the species is vital. These chicks are the result of a successful breeding loan with our friends at Gulf World Marine Park in Panama City."

New Dune Walk at Gulfarium

March 19th, 2019

Photo for New Dune Walk at Gulfarium
Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park has opened their new Dune Walk.
 
The new 551ft feature wraps around the west side of the property and provides breathtaking views of the Gulf of Mexico while giving guests the opportunity to learn about the importance of dunes in the coastal ecosystem. 
 
The Dune Walk offers an exciting new perspective of multiple exhibits at the Gulfarium, including Dune Lagoon, Fort Gator and The Bayou. Not only can guests now view some of their favorite exhibits from a new angle, there is also a new box turtle exhibit to enjoy.  
 
"We are very excited to open our new Dune Walk and highlight the importance of coastal dune lakes," says Patrick Berry, Gulfarium's Director. "These lakes are unique geographical features, found only in a handful of areas, including right here in Northwest Florida! Many endangered species, including sea turtles and beach mice, use dune lakes for nesting and shelter, making them an essential part of the environment."
 
The north and south entrances of the Dune Walk are wheelchair accessible so that the new area can be enjoyed by all visitors.