To release or to not release…

I was talking with a colleague the other day about some of the sea turtles on exhibit at a local aquarium. He was of the mind that we should release all of the sea turtles. One of the turtles is leucistic and I am of the mind that she should not be released. My reasons, in no particular order, are as follows:

  • She is a bright white target and would be eaten rather quickly.
  • The Kemp’s Ridley turtle is endangered species, and suppose she does survive, do we really want this gene to remain in the available gene pool of an endangered species?
  • This condition leaves her prone to UV damage and cancers. The aquarium can protect her from those issues.
  • The community can see one of these great animals up close and be educated about their plight in the wild.
  • If an individual had the money, and proper SCUBA credentials, they can dive in the tank with this turtle.

A primary mission of aquariums around the world is conservation of endangered species. The first definition of conservation listed in the Merriam Webster online dictionary is “a careful preservation and protection of something; especially: planned management of a natural resource to prevent exploitation, destruction, or neglect”. The US Fish and Wildlife Service defines conserve, conserving, and conservation as: “The use of methods and procedures necessary to bring any endangered or threatened species to the point at which the measures provided under the Endangered Species Act are no longer necessary; includes research, census, law enforcement, habitat acquisition and maintenance, propagation, live trapping, and transportation, and, in the extraordinary case where population pressures within a given ecosystem cannot be otherwise relieved, may include regulated taking.”

I did read a post on the Loggerhead Marine Life Center that these turtles should not be exhibited for the following reason; “…the educational value of keeping a genetic mutant is poor, as they do not accurately represent the species.”

I also found that one organization, the Marine Science Center in Volusia county FL has in the past rehabbed leucistic turtles and released them back to the ocean.

I’m sure that there are many more reasons why we should/should not release this turtle and should/should not exhibit such animals. If you have any ideas or opinions please feel free to comment on this post.

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