Rescued Sea Turtle “Champ” Debuts at the Texas State Aquarium

June 28, 2018

CORPUS CHRISTI, TX – Visitors to the Texas State Aquarium now have a limited-time opportunity to see Champ, a one year-old Kemp’s ridley sea turtle that has overcome some incredible odds. On June 25, Champ was introduced to the “Coral Reef” exhibit in Caribbean Journey to begin its next phase of therapy and physical conditioning. Here, the Aquarium hopes Champ will become a stronger swimmer with the goal of releasing this endangered sea turtle back into its natural habitat.

This Kemp’s ridley of unknown gender earned its name through its remarkable survival story and resilience. Rescuers first found Champ clinging to life on Padre Island National Seashore in September 2017. It had a missing left front flipper that had since healed over and small healed bite wounds on its left rear flipper. The exact cause of its missing flipper is unknown, but predation is a possibility. At the time of its discovery, this tiny turtle measured only about 7 square centimeters and weighed just 67 grams, the approximate size and weight of a pack of Post-It notes. Working with their partners at the Padre Island National Seashore Division of Sea Turtle Science & Recovery, staff immediately transported this unresponsive and severely dehydrated turtle to the Aquarium’s Wildlife Rescue Center.

In the days since, Champ has grown to be more than 20 times its original size and has recovered the ability to swim and eat. It now weighs more than 1500 grams (3 pounds), and measures 23 centimeters (9 inches) in length and width. Despite only having three flippers, rescuers say that Champ is a capable swimmer, and will eagerly pursue its daily diet of capelin and shrimp.

 

While things are clearly looking up for Champ, Aquarium staff remain concerned that the turtle floats at the top of the water as it swims and doesn’t appear to have the ability to dive. In the deep Coral Reef exhibit, however, it will have the opportunity to better test this survival skill and be carefully evaluated by staff rescuers. If the Aquarium and partnering conservation organizations believe Champ is ready to live outside a protective environment, a plan to release the turtle into its natural habitat will be developed.

To learn more about the Texas State Aquarium’s Wildlife Rescue Center and its work saving endangered sea turtles, visit www.texasstateaquarium.org/turtlerescue.

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