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We’ve Got Sea Turtles!

Sept. 22, 2017

Azul is a diva, but curious. Sunny’s more a chill kinda guy. But aquarist Melissa Bishop loves both of the green sea turtles that just arrived at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium – and she has plenty of time to get to know them before they move into their big Baja Bay exhibit in the new Pacific Seas Aquarium.

Melissa smiling at turtle

“They’re so cool,” said Bishop, who spent the night in the turtle’s temporary housing when they first arrived, to keep close watch. “They have engaging personalities, they’re graceful. And they’re very curious.”

That much is clear to anyone who steps up to their 5,000-gallon temporary pool, which comes complete with a viewing window and “Sea Turtle Crossing” sign. Both turtles make pass after pass to check out visitors. And when Bishop first arrives at work, they’ll swim up for a back scratch.

“Azul is a little high-maintenance, but curious,” said Bishop. “Sunny is more like a chill, California-type guy.”

two sea turtles in parallelThe turtles are brothers,14 years old. Hand-raised and not releasable to the wild, they’ve spent their lives as representatives of their endangered species at SeaWorld and Monterey Bay Aquarium. They could live to be 80 years or more, and will grow to around 300-400 pounds.

And they love to cuddle when they sleep or nap – they can hold their breath for up to five hours underwater.

For Bishop, the turtles’ primary caretaker, the next few months give a chance to get to know the turtles and train them to take food and care before they swim into the 250,000-gallon Baja Bay exhibit, which they’ll share with the new eagle rays and hammerhead sharks. That will ensure each turtle gets his proper diet: around 1.5% of body weight each day in vegetables, plus a little squid and vitamins.

 two sea turtles eating lettuce

Bishop and the aquarium staff also carefully monitor water quality and temperature for the turtles’ optimum comfort and health.

Meanwhile, Bishop’s also getting to know them better – and what treats they like.

“Romaine lettuce is their favorite,” said Bishop during the morning feeding. “But it seems like no-one wants this last Brussel sprout.”

– Rosemary Ponnekanti, PDZA