In the wild, sea turtles have rocks to rub against, caves to hide in, and vegetation to swim through. At the New England Aquarium, we try to make our sea turtles in rehabilitation as comfortable as possible. To do this, we use environmental enrichment. I reported previously that Goose, our green sea turtle, was not eating his vegetables!
Rescue interns Adrienne and Denise designed and built a lettuce holding device that would allow Goose to be more stimulated to eat the lettuce. The 'lettuce forest,' as we call it, was made to hold the lettuce for Goose to eat as well as give him something to swim or hide in. We tested this for the first time on Friday.
Three different types of lettuce (romaine, kale, and collards) were secured on the contraption, which was then lowered into Goose's tank. At first Goose wanted nothing to do with it!
Eventually he became curious and was hovering over the lettuce.
Then he decided to take a bite and just kept on eating! It was very exciting to see Goose getting the nutrients he needs!
After sampling all the types of lettuce, he started to swim through the leaves and rub his head against the lettuce. He was also nibbling on it every once in a while for the next couple hours.
This whole event was visible in our Sea Turtle Recovery Room [The space that housed the Sea Turtle Recovery Room is now The Trust Family Foundation Shark and Ray Touch Tank. Rescued sea turtles are now cared for at the new, much larger Animal Care Clinic in Quincy.] and aquarium visitors were able to watch great natural behaviors of green sea turtles. The enrichment was a success and we plan on continuing to offer Goose lettuce using this method. Maybe you'll be able to get a glimpse during your next visit!