The Virginia Living Museum’s (VLM) Loggerhead Sea Turtle, Coco, is being safely transported back to the North Carolina Aquarium for release into the Atlantic Ocean.
Aquarists guided Coco on Thursday morning into a bin at the top of the exhibit and moved her behind the scenes. She was then prepped for transport to the North Carolina Aquarium.
Coco’s caretakers, Patrycja Lawryniuk and Britt Sorensen, will be driving Coco to Roanoke Island. The turtle will then be transferred to Beaufort, N.C., on Friday for release into the Atlantic Ocean on Saturday.
Coco, who has grown over 90 pounds and has been at the VLM since July 8 of 2015, is part of a Sea Turtle Loan Program. The Virginia Living Museum has exhibited Loggerhead Sea Turtles for many years and has displayed several loggerheads through the Sea Turtle Loan Program at the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores.
Juvenile sea turtles are acquired from nests in southern North Carolina and then raised for several years in captivity before being tagged and released into the Atlantic Ocean.
The Virginia Living Museum collaborates with the North Carolina Aquarium to care for and raise the juvenile loggerhead sea turtles.
Each year female loggerheads make their way ashore to nest along the beaches of coastal North Carolina. These nests are federally protected and continuously monitored by a network of volunteers and institutions to ensure the maximum number of hatchlings survive. Healthy hatchlings are protected from predators by the observers, but otherwise left to make their way into the sea on their own. Weak or disoriented hatchlings are collected to be nursed back to health at the North Carolina Aquarium and their partner institutions.
The vast majority of the hatchlings that are collected are released as soon as they are healthy and strong enough to survive in the wild, while a few of these turtles remain on public display at the N.C. Aquariums or their partner facilities, including the Virginia Living Museum. Each of these living ambassadors helps to educate the public and inspire conservation efforts to ensure the survival of their species, all the while growing large enough to fend off virtually any natural predator by the time of their release.
The Virginia Living Museum has released several turtles back into the wild as part of the Sea Turtle Loan Program.
Aquarists, Patrycja Lawryniuk and Britt Sorensen, will be returning to the VLM with a much smaller loggerhead Thursday evening, November 9. This new loggerhead will be quarantined and given some time to be trained to target feed and adjust to having very large tank-mates before going on exhibit.