Featured News

Four Rehabilitated Sea Turtles released back into the Gulf of Mexico

June 29th, 2022

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The Gulfarium's C.A.R.E. Center successfully released four rehabilitated sea turtles on Wednesday, June 29, 2022, at Inlet Beach, Florida. 
 
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 sea turtles back into the Gulf," states Patrick Berry, Director of the Gulfarium C.A.R.E. Center. "All species of sea turtle are endangered so we are passionate about doing everything we can to help these animals. I am proud of our team and their commitment to give sea turtles second chances."
 
All of the rehabilitated sea turtles arrived at the C.A.R.E. Center after being accidently hooked by fishermen at local fishing piers. 
 
Silvia, a juvenile Kemp’s ridley sea turtle weighing just 7lbs, was foul hooked in the right front flipper by a circle hook at Navarre Beach Fishing Pier on April 5th, 2022. Intake radiographs revealed no internal hooks but her stay at the C.A.R.E. Center was lengthened by an increased white blood cell count, indicating an infection. After a round of antibiotics, Silvia was cleared for release.
 
Next to head into the Gulf of Mexico was Bjorndal, a sub-adult loggerhead weighing 112lbs, who was foul-hooked with a J-hook in the left front flipper on June 22nd. Clear radiographs and bloodwork meant that it was a short stay at the center for this turtle. 
 
Foster, an adult female Kemp’s ridley weighing 67lbs was also released. Foster was foul hooked in the right front flipper on June 24th, 2022, at Pensacola Beach Fishing Pier. Even though Foster has a large “L” shaped carapace wound, it was completely healed prior to arrival at the C.A.R.E. Center and did not require any medical treatment.
 
The final turtle to head down the beach back into the Gulf of Mexico was sub-adult loggerhead, Brinkley. Brinkley was hooked in the mouth with two treble hooks. Upon arrival to the center on June 22nd, both hooks were successfully removed with mild sedation. Following a quick healing period, this loggerhead was cleared for release. 
 
If you accidently hook a sea turtle while you are fishing, please do not cut the line. Report it to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission immediately at 1-888-404-FWCC (1-888-404-3922) to receive direction on what to do.  

Five Sea Turtles Rehabilitated at Gulfarium C.A.R.E. Center and Released Back into the Gulf of Mexico

June 9th, 2022

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The Gulfarium's C.A.R.E. Center successfully released five rehabilitated sea turtles on Thursday, June 9, 2022, at Topsail Hill Preserve State Park off of West County Highway 30A. 
 
It was a warm, sunny morning as crowds gathered to watch the endangered turtles head back into the Gulf of Mexico. All of the rehabilitated sea turtles had fallen victim to fishing hook related injuries.
 
One interesting and very large turtle venturing back into the Gulf of Mexico today was Mambo, an adult female loggerhead weighing a whopping 213lbs. Mambo was hooked in the mouth by a large shark fishing circle hook on June 4th, 2022. With light sedation the hook was removed, and this large turtle was deemed ready for release. After examining Mambo upon arrival at the C.A.R.E Center, the team believes that she had recently nested and laid eggs. 
 
"Release days are always extremely rewarding for the whole team," states Tabitha Siegfried, Stranding Coordinator for the Gulfarium C.A.R.E. Center. "Knowing that Mambo is a reproductively active female who potentially laid eggs recently, getting her back out to possibly nest again this breeding season is especially exciting as all species of sea turtle are endangered."
 
Another turtle released was Orion. This juvenile green weighed 15lbs and arrived at the C.A.R.E. Center for the second time, on May 30th, 2022, after being accidently foul hooked by a fisherman at Navarre Beach Fishing Pier. Orion first received rehabilitation at the center in 2021. Due to her smaller size, she was walked into the surf for release.
 
The next sea turtle to head back into the Gulf of Mexico was Rosalind, a sub-adult Kemp's ridley weighing in at 45lbs, who was hooked in the mouth with a large shark fishing hook and a J-hook, on May 27th, 2022. Both of the hooks were removed with light sedation and following a short recovery period to ensure all was well, Rosalind was cleared for release. 
 
Dot, a juvenile green weighing in at 17lbs, who was foul hooked with a Sabiki hook in the right front flipper, at Navarre Beach Fishing Pier on May 29th, 2022 was also released. This was Dot's third visit to the C.A.R.E. Center, after last receiving treatment in 2020.
 
Juvenile green sea turtle, Lil Bit, arrived at the C.A.R.E. Center on June 5th after being foul hooked by a fisherman at Navarre Beach Fishing Pier. This turtle weighed just 7lbs and had clear radiographs upon arrival at the center, so was medically cleared for release by the veterinary team.
 

Gulfarium C.A.R.E. Center Successfully Releases Four Rehabilitated Sea Turtles - One Adorned with a Satellite Tag

May 12th, 2022

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The Gulfarium's C.A.R.E. Center successfully released four rehabilitated sea turtles on Thursday, May 12, 2022, at Inlet Beach, Florida.
 
It was a beautiful morning as crowds gathered to watch the endangered turtles head back into the Gulf of Mexico. All of the rehabilitated sea turtles had fallen victim to fishing hook related injuries. One of the turtles was outfitted with a satellite tag for the release.
 
Jamie, a large adult female loggerhead weighing 208lbs, had been outfitted with a satellite tag by the United States Geological Survey team for a tracking research project prior to release. She was accidentally hooked at Navarre Beach Fishing Pier on November 20th, 2021. X-rays showed that she had a large circle hook in her proximal esophagus and a small treble hook further down. Jamie underwent a four-hour surgery on November 22nd to remove both hooks. After the surgery was complete, the recovery phase was very extensive. However, after a seven-month long stay at the C.A.R.E. Center, she was finally ready to be released. The satellite tag will allow researchers to monitor Jamie’s movements and track where she travels and how long she spends at each location. This equipment is part of an ongoing, long-term research project to determine the movement patterns of repeatedly hooked sea turtles at local fishing piers. This was Jamie’s third time being foul hooked at the same pier - she is an excellent candidate for this project.
 
The other three turtles that headed back into the Gulf of Mexico included Sheldon, a sub-adult loggerhead weighing in at 79lbs, who was foul hooked with a cobia jig in the right front flipper on April 18th, 2022. Following the initial intake procedure, Sheldon’s X-rays showed a large hook embedded in his tongue. After mild sedation, the hook was successfully removed. Sheldon was under observation by our veterinary team for a few weeks to ensure all was well and after being cleared for release, he was ready to head back into the Gulf of Mexico. This was Sheldon’s second visit to the C.A.R.E. Center for rehabilitation.
 
Pluto arrived at the C.A.R.E. Center on May 10th, 2022, after being foul hooked by a fisherman at Navarre Beach Fishing Pier. This sub-adult loggerhead weighs 90lbs and had unremarkable blood work and clear radiographs upon arrival at the center, so was medically cleared for release by the veterinary team once the hook was removed. This was Pluto's third visit to the Gulfarium C.A.R.E. Center.
 
Shirley, a sub-adult Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, who was hooked in the mouth with a J-hook on May 8th, 2022, at Navarre Beach Fishing Pier was also released. Shirley weighed in at 56lbs and had a very quick stay at the Gulfarium C.A.R.E. Center. With unremarkable blood work and radiographs, she was deemed medically cleared for release by the center's veterinary team. 
 
"Release days are always extremely rewarding," states Tabitha Siegfried, Stranding Coordinator for the Gulfarium C.A.R.E. Center. "We are very excited to be participating in a research project that includes a satellite tag as all sea turtle species are endangered so any help that we can provide to these animals is crucial."
 
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). 

Gulfarium C.A.R.E. Center Announces New Dates for After-Hours Turtle Program

February 4th, 2022

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The Gulfarium C.A.R.E. Center has partnered with Destin-Fort Walton Beach to bring awareness to sea turtles and our nesting beaches by introducing a brand new, after-hours “C.A.R.E.”ing for Turtles program. The encounter, which takes place at the C.A.R.E. Center, located within Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park, has been created to educate guests on the operations of the rehabilitation center and the importance of preserving endangered sea turtle species.
 
During the “C.A.R.E.”ing for Turtles encounter, participants learn about the center’s current patients, perform a mock turtle intake and visit a simulated nest to gain an understanding of the nesting process for sea turtles along the Gulf Coast.
 
The first “C.A.R.E.”ing for Turtles encounter took place on January 26th, 2022 and was a huge success. Following the announcement of the program, all 15 spaces filled within just 2 hours. Due to the popularity, Destin-Fort Walton Beach and the C.A.R.E. team are excited to announce the dates of the next three programs. These will take place on Wednesday, February 23rd, March 9th, and March 23rd, 2022.
 
Admission to the program is $10, with all proceeds benefitting the Gulfarium C.A.R.E. Center, a 501c3 organization that acts as a beacon for coastal conservation through marine animal rescue and rehabilitation, encouraging awareness with public education and opportunities for active participation.
 
For more information, or to reserve your space at the next "C.A.R.E."ing for Turtles event, please visit www.gulfarium.com/careingforturtles.
 
Donations are tax-deductible and can be made online on the C.AR.E. Center's webpage.

Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park to Embark on Major Expansion Project

December 13th, 2021

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Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park, located on Okaloosa Island in Destin-Fort Walton Beach, Florida is embarking on a large, multimillion-dollar expansion project this winter and is excited to share the news with the community.
 
The project will add a brand-new dolphin habitat to the park.  Construction is scheduled to commence in late December of this year and will take roughly 14 months to complete. Park operations will continue as normal throughout the construction process, as the new habitat will be located on undeveloped land on the north side of the park. Dolphin Oasis will debut just in time for the 2023 Spring and Summer seasons.
 
A staple within the local community, the Gulfarium is also proud to have welcomed visitors from the region, country, and all over the world since 1955. From the moment guests walk through the doors, they are immersed in an underwater world where they can view and interact with animals they may not otherwise have the opportunity to encounter.
 
"Our main dolphin habitat was one of the first of its kind and has stood proud for over 65 years," states Will Merrill III, President of the Gulfarium.  "A pioneering habitat in the 1950’s, built with robust battleship steel, it has allowed us to provide dolphins the top-notch animal welfare that we offer all of our resident animals. Today we are excited to build expanded habitats fully suited to an animal’s long-term needs through all stages of their lives, and so the time has come to create something new."
 
After many years in the making and two years of design engineering through a team of individuals from Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park, a design firm based in Seattle, WA, MIG|Portico, and PCL Construction, a company based out of Orlando, FL, the work to construct the brand-new habitat has begun.
 

Dolphin Oasis will be an immersive, natural-themed experience reflecting our Emerald Coast and consisting of three large, interconnected habitats, totaling over one million gallons of gulf salt water designed with animal welfare, the guest experience, and conservation education in mind.
 
The new environment will be dynamic, possessing the ability to suit each animal’s welfare needs in a variety of ways, such as offering the animals the option to move throughout the many different areas of the Oasis, providing various social groupings. There will also be a large maternity suite and nursery for mothers and calves as well as multiple locations for animal care specialists to interact and play with the dolphins, utilizing the additional enrichment features included in the design.
 
Each of the three main habitats will differ in size and depth, one habitat being the deepest, one being shallower, and one having a sloping beach, all mimicking areas dolphins would naturally venture to in the ocean. Dolphin Oasis will also have three husbandry habitats connected to the main areas, as well as a medical lift for the animals. Additionally, the new habitat will be supported by a cutting edge, state-of-the art life support system using Defender Filters in addition to sand filters, lowering energy usage by 50 percent. The Defender Filters will also provide the ability to cut oxidants from the water, allowing the habitat to house live fish for further animal enrichment and welfare.
 
Dolphin Oasis was designed around the desire to continue to provide education and inspiration, as well as fun and relaxation for Gulfarium guests. The new presentation habitat will provide seating for 480 guests, while still providing the intimate, up-close presentation experience that visitors have come to know and love. The exhibit habitat, which will serve as a nursery for the birth of new calves, will also feature split-level viewing through a 27-foot acrylic window where guests will be able to observe the dolphins from above and below the water’s surface. The encounter habitat will provide new and improved interaction opportunities for guests of all ages to play and learn through interactive, in- and out-of-water, hands-on experiences with the resident dolphins.
 
When visiting the Gulfarium, a facility accredited by the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks & Aquariums and the International Marine Animal Trainers’ Association, guests will journey past the C.A.R.E. Center for sea turtle rescue and rehabilitation, through Expedition Trail, a world of crocodilians, and arrive at Dolphin Oasis. Once they step foot on the pathway, they will be greeted by 2 acres of sandy dunes, palms, and the pristine emerald waters of the Florida coastlines where the dolphins reside. The new habitat will also provide a beautiful and unique event experience for weddings, celebrations, or any special occasion worth celebrating.
 
"We may have opened our doors more than 65 years ago, but our story is just beginning," exclaims Patrick Berry, Gulfarium's Senior Vice President. "We look forward to the enhanced welfare opportunities the new habitat will offer our animals. We are grateful to be able to move forward with this expansion and look forward to welcoming our guests into Dolphin Oasis in 2023."

Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park Hosts Local Foster Families

December 11th, 2021

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On Saturday, December 11th, 2021, Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park was proud to once again host the foster families from Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa and Walton counties with Inspired to Foster for their Breakfast with Santa event. This event brought in over 700 guests and over 100 volunteers to make sure each child and their families were able to have a day full of marine life and Christmas cheer. Each child was given a gift, were able to shop for important adults in their lives, wrap the gifts, eat a delicious breakfast, visit with Santa, and enjoy complimentary access to the park to experience the Gulfarium's amazing resident animals.  

"We are honored to be able to participate in this event for our local foster families," states Patrick Berry, Gulfarium's Senior Vice President. "Being able to bring families together at this time of year is such an important part of why we love to host this event." 

Three Rehabilitated Sea Turtles Successfully Released

November 11th, 2021

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The Gulfarium's C.A.R.E. Center successfully released three rehabilitated sea turtles on Thursday, November 11, 2021 at Perdido Key State Park, Florida.
 
All three sea turtles were rehabilitated at the Gulfarium C.A.R.E Center after being accidently hooked by fishermen at the Okaloosa Fishing Pier.
 
Scorpio was the first sea turtle to head back into the Gulf. This adult Kemp’s ridley sea turtle weighing in at 59lbs was brought to the C.A.R.E Center on 10/18/2021. Scorpio was caught with a J-hook in the esophagus and had a small J-hook in the left rear flipper.  Both hooks were non-surgically removed and after some rest and recovery Scorpio was cleared for release.
 
Aries, a 115lb sub-adult loggerhead arrived at the center on 9/19/2021. Aries was caught with a large J-hook in the mouth that had trailing monofilament line. Aries also had a bite wound/ laceration on the front left flipper. Aries underwent surgery to remove two hooks that were seen on radiographs and was treated with antibiotics for his bite wounds. The C.A.R.E Center staff were happy Aries made a great recovery and was ready to go back in to the Gulf.
 
The final turtle to be released was Eva, another sub-adult loggerhead weighing 118lbs. She was brought to the C.A.R.E Center on 8/13/2021 after being caught with a J-hook in the esophagus. Eva had a severe entanglement wound with monofilament and braided line wrapped around her left front flipper causing bone exposure. Eva was also severely anemic when she arrived at the center. After weeks of antibiotic and laser therapy, Eva’s front flipper healed nicely. Once Eva was no longer anemic, she underwent surgery to remove the J-hook from her esophagus and was finally cleared for release by the Gulfarium veterinarian staff after her lengthy stay at the C.A.R.E Center.
 
"Release days are always extremely rewarding," states Tabitha Siegfried, Stranding Coordinator for the Gulfarium C.A.R.E. Center. "All sea turtles species are endangered so any help that we can provide to these animals is crucial. Watching a critical care patient, such as Eva, improve over time and eventually be deemed releasable makes the whole C.A.R.E. Center team so happy."
 

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

October 28th, 2021

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The Gulfarium C.A.R.E. Center has been awarded a grant for $12,989.20 from the Florida Sea Turtle Grants Program. The C.A.R.E Center received the grant to help with the purchase of seven AquaCal water chillers for their rehabilitation habitats. 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

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

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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

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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.

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