Betsy’s last day at the Conservancy was our new babyloggerhead’s first full day!

Farewell to Betsy, Hello to our New Friend!

By: Katie Ferron, Conservancy of Southwest Florida Aquarist

As many of you know, for the past two years we have had the honor of being in the company of Betsy the loggerhead sea turtle. She stole our hearts from the moment she arrived, and kept us on our toes until the very last day! For those of you who don’t know, here’s her story:

Betsy arrived to the Conservancy on March 18th, 2014. She came to us from the FAU laboratory at the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center. Her nest was found near Boca Raton, and her egg, among 29 others, were taken back to the lab to be observed during the hatching procedure. Her “nest” within the lab was kept at a temperature which scientists hypothesized would result in her gender being determined as female. They were able to confirm that laproscopically after she was born!

After concluding she was indeed female, Betsy was ready for her next adventure! Her carapace (or top shell) was only about 14 centimeters in length, so it was determined that she would be placed in a different facility until she was 45 cm.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission decided that 45 cm is a good size for a loggerhead turtle to be successful in the wild, and will hopefully increase success rate for the species. Since sea turtles face so many threats in the wild, especially as babies, it is thought that she will have a better chance of survival if she is bigger.

It was arranged that Betsy would spend the remainder of her time in captivity at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. Here, she was fed a variety of seafood such as smelt, shrimp and squid. She was fed with a PVC device that allowed husbandry staff to feed her from a distance. That way, she would not rely on humans to feed her in the wild upon her release. Husbandry staff observed her throughout her time here to ensure she was exhibiting natural turtle behaviors. She did fantastic!

Michelle Rebilas, Kerry Lee, Katie Ferron, Jordan Findley and Nicki Dardinger with Betsy just moments before her release

When she reached 45 cm in length, the Conservancy’s team coordinated with the appropriate facilities and organizations to manage her release. She was taken out into Gullivan Bay in 10,000 Islands, and was released into the Gulf of Mexico on March 29, 2016. She has a flipper tag and a PIT tag, so should she be found in a nesting study or other turtle studies up the road, she can be identified! Her release was considered successful, and we wish her the best in her future endeavors in the big blue!

Our New Ambassador

Meanwhile, we are still very busy here at the Conservancy. We have a new arrival that requires all of our attention! Our newest turtle arrived on March 28, 2016. She comes from the very same facility that Betsy came from just a few short years ago. She arrived at 12.3 cm in length, so she has quite a bit to grow before she reaches 45 cm! We are excited to have her here, and we think she is a great fit for our Conservancy family.

Please come and visit our new addition! We will announce the winner at our Earth Day Festival on April 16, 2016.

The newest addition to the Conservancy Family