Hey - what's in the truck? That would be sea turtle food!

An endangered Kemp's ridley consuming a small squid head

I haven't had time to crunch the numbers yet but from my memory - this is already the second highest sea turtle season in the history of the New England Aquarium Rescue program (30 yrs)! So far over 115 turtles have been rescued off Cape Cod beaches by the Wellfleet Audubon staff and transported to us for care. The Audubon staff have also recovered numerous dead animals. It takes a lot to feed this many animals!

Below on the left is our fish delivery truck and an army of volunteers waiting to form an assembly line to move the fish from the truck to the freezer. The photo on the right is of Kerry holding the freezer flaps open so I can snap of shot before we stock the freezer.

I've been documenting this event with my Nikon, which hangs off me at almost all times (as you can tell by the number of photos I'm able to post). It takes a lot to care for this many turtles. There are so many tasks that need to get done in addition to the actual turtle treatments. The other day we had to stop everything to deal with a fish delivery.

Below are photos of the assembly line of fish. Off the truck, to the freezer and back again...and again and again.

The last few boxes are placed in the freezer with joy and care! The photo on the right is of the freezer with newly purchased cases of herring, squid and caplin. We still have an order of shrimp on the way.

Each day a predetermined amount of fish and squid is pulled and prepared for the turtles. With the number of animals we are feeding daily we'll use up everything in the freezer pretty quickly and will need another order.

This is what the food looks like after diet preparation is completed and the feeding begins. Each animal has a food plan so the volunteers record how many pieces and the types of food consumed by each individual turtle.

Feeding is not as easy as it sounds. These are wild animals and they are accustomed to chasing live prey. It takes us a long time and more patience then you can imagine to encourage them to eat.

In the photos below Casey works on feeding individual animals. In the photo on the right he is presenting food directly in front of an animal that tends to take food only from the bottom of the water column. Good thing for long arms!

Volunteers work animals with food to encourage eating.

Because it is so time consuming to encourage these animals to start feeding, we have tapped into our field volunteers and some volunteers from the past. All have been so generous with their time to help these little turtles.

In the photos above you've seen volunteers and staff standing around the edge of the pools with long feeding tongs. Below are some photos of animals actually eating. Once they get the hang of it we remove the tongs and begin presenting food into the tanks without feeding tongs. Each animal progresses at a different pace so sometimes animals are moved into lanes of "good eaters" and "need a lot of attention" lanes so it makes feeding a little easier.

In the photos below # 6 takes food off the end of the tongs. The end of the tongs are just sub-surface when #6 removes the food. In the photo on the right #6 hovers in place while eating his piece of food.

A lot of other tasks get done on a daily basis to keep the hospital and tanks clean and operating at the highest levels. I'll try to capture some of these tasks in the days ahead.

Below Kerry removes the filter socks from the isolation systems and takes them to a cleaning station for cleaning and soaking. Doesn't she look so thrilled when she realizes I'm taking a photo?

Lastly. and for those of you loosing sleep over the laundry situation: We are keeping up as best as possible. From about 6:00 am to about 10:00 pm our washer and drying are changed over about every thirty to forty minutes and so far they are still going strong! We usually get about three turtle seasons out of our machines before they have been run into the ground. Rest easy my friends, these are both new machines so we should so we should be okay for the remainder of the season.