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Teaching an old turtle new tricks


* 16 December 2003 *

Teaching an old turtle new tricks

Helen Braysher with Lulu, the Pacific green sea turtle

Helen Braysher with Lulu, the Pacific green sea turtle

A Sussex student is helping a giant sea turtle enjoy the rich marine world of the Brighton Sea Life Centre.

Helen Braysher, a 21-year-old final-year Biology student, has developed a feeding programme for Lulu, a 60-year-old Pacific green sea turtle. Lulu was relocated to Brighton's large aquarium habitat in January 2003 when she outgrew her previous tank.

Helen, previously a part-time aquarist at the Sea Life Centre, carried out a month's observation of the giant turtle as part of her degree studies. She then invented feeding devices and a schedule to help Lulu feel more at home.

Helen said: "I recorded Lulu's every move, turn and dive to gain an understanding of her behaviour. Her feeding pattern was twice daily meals, delivered from the same location, and it was clear Lulu anticipated her dinnertimes. In the wild, turtles eat throughout the day and look for food in various places. I designed and built a couple of portable feeders, or 'grazers' as I call them, as a way of making her environment more natural."

The grazers allow Lulu to feed whenever she wants. They are moved around the tank, so she has to go looking for food when she feels peckish. The aim is to enrich Lulu's environment by encouraging her to behave more like her ocean-dwelling counterparts.

Helen added: "Sea turtles can live for a very long time in the wild, perhaps even for centuries. They are now an endangered species and the more we learn about them the more chance we have of saving them from extinction. I hope that by making Lulu comfortable in captivity we can enjoy her for many years to come. She is a real character and very friendly with the people around her."

Helen's study will run throughout December 2003 and January 2004. She will collate her findings for Sea Life Centre curator Peter Jones.

Peter said: "Lulu has an excellent home here at the Sea Life Centre and Helen has many positive ideas about how we can make it even better. We have a good relationship with the University of Sussex and are always keen to tap the knowledge of students working to enhance our innovative marine environments."




* Notes for editors *

  1. Photographs of Helen with Lulu are available from the university press office. The Sea Life Centre is happy to discuss access for alternative photography/filming requirements.
  2. The Sea Life Centre also stated that Lulu is not a suitable candidate for rehabilitation to the wild because she has been in captivity since she was a hatchling.
  3. Press Office contacts: Alix Macfarlane or Alison Field  Tel 01273 678888 or Fax 01273 877456 A.Macfarlane@sussex.ac.uk or A.Field@sussex.ac.uk



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