Monday, July 6, 2015

Helping Turtles In His Spare Time

The Aquarium's head veterinarian, Charles Innis, VMD, is undoubtedly a friend to turtles everywhere.

Dr. Innis looks on during treatment of a cold-stunned sea turtle | Photo: Esther Horvath

Not only does he treat the resident turtles at the Aquarium—both fresh and saltwater varieties—but he volunteers his skills helping local wild turtles in need of emergency care (often snappers that suffer unfortunately run-ins with cars) and cold-stunned sea turtles that end up in treatment by the Aquarium's Rescue Team at our Animal Care Center in Quincy. [Want to see what treating hypothermic sea turtles is all about? Check out our Turtle Rescue Team exhibit this summer!]

Baby Sulawesi forest turtle hatched by Dr. Innis

Fortunately, local turtles aren't the only species to benefit from his expertise and knowledge. At home, in terrariums far from the hustle and bustle of Central Wharf, Dr. Innis raises and rears critically endangered Sulawesi forest turtles (Leucocephalon yuwonoi). In fact, the first known captive hatching of this species happened in his care in 2003. He went on to hatch several more over the years, with his experiences helping to inform a slow but steady improvement of egg fertility, hatching and rearing successes among several private facilities and zoological institutions.

Another youngster hatched by Dr. Innis

This semi-aquatic species has been decimated in the wild by the live animal trade, with hundreds being captured and sold as pets or for food in recent years. Since they are endemic to the Sulawesi island of Indonesia, it is important to learn how to successfully breed this species in captivity as we work to protect wild populations.

Adult Sulawesi forest turtle (Leucocephalon yuwonoi) | Photo via Turtle Conservancy

Dr. Innis is doing his part, in his own time, to help this vulnerable species. Just recently, he was called to the other side of the world to help another critically endangered turtle species after thousands of Philippine forest sick and injured turtles confiscated from a warehouse in the Philippines. Stay tuned for more on Dr. Innis' efforts to help during this crisis of unprecedented proportions.

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