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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Baby turtles get own Maui resort

Advertiser Staff

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Maui Ocean Center head curator John Gorman, right, and Scott Benson transferred six green sea turtle hatchlings to an exhibit at the Ma'alaea facility. They will be released into the ocean in a couple of years.

Photos by CHRISTIE WILSON | The Honolulu Advertiser

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MA'ALAEA, Maui Six baby green sea turtles were introduced to their new home yesterday at the Maui Ocean Center, where they will be cared for until they are old enough to be released into the ocean.

The 2-month-old turtles furiously flapped their little flippers as head curator John Gorman and staffer Scott Benson moved them from a container to a new exhibit at the aquarium's Turtle Lagoon.

The Maui Ocean Center already has six juvenile green sea turtles that have been at the aquarium a year and are kept in a separate exhibit at the lagoon.

The baby turtles, which weigh no more than a half-pound and are small enough to fit in the palm of a hand, are the offspring of turtles at Sea Life Park on O'ahu. That colony of Hawaiian green sea turtles produces 200 to 300 hatchlings a year, all of which are eventually released into the wild.

A few, like the dozen at the Maui Ocean Center and some kept at Sea Life Park and other collaborating institutions, have become part of the Hawai'i Green Sea Turtle Educational Loan Program and will be released at a later age.

The program is run in cooperation with the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center of the National Marine Fisheries Service and aims to promote public awareness of the ocean and its inhabitants.

Affiliated facilities display information along with the turtles.

When the hatchlings are between 2 and 3 years old, they are released in Hawai'i waters. Sea Life Park then replaces them with new hatchlings in the participating displays.

Of the seven species of sea turtles in the world, five are found in Hawai'i. The green sea turtle, hawksbill and leatherback are considered native to the Islands, and loggerheads and olive Ridleys are rare visitors.

The green sea turtle, known as honu in Hawaiian, is the largest hard-shelled sea turtle in the world and the most common in Hawai'i. As adults, they mainly eat algae and sea grasses, which turn their fat layer green, giving them their common name.

They are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.