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Sea Turtles - Disney Animals

Loggerhead sea turtle at bottom of coral reef

Epcot

Future World

Guests Can Be

Any Height

Age Interest

All Ages

Accessibility and Other Information - Opens a dialog

Accessibility

  • May Remain in Wheelchair/ECV

Interests

Animal Encounters

Follow the sea turtle’s age-old journey from sand-buried eggs to the great escape of a deep-current cruise.

Loggerhead sea turtle swimming near sea grasses

Where to Find Sea Turtles

Experience the wonder of 250-pound sea turtles cruising the deep blue, and you’ll be like…Whoa!

Sea Turtles at Walt Disney World Resort
Guests can see our green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) and loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) at the The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot.

Sea Turtles in the Wild
Sea turtles live in warm oceans around the world. They find their food on shallow seagrass beds, coral reefs and the open ocean, but can migrate long distances between their feeding grounds and the nesting beaches where females return to lay eggs.

Threats to Sea Turtles
Six of the world’s 7 sea turtle species are found in U.S. waters, and all 6 are protected under the Endangered Species Act and international treaties. Historic harvest of sea turtles for their shells, meat and eggs has caused their populations to severely decline. Additional threats to sea turtles today include accidental capture by commercial fishing boats and the loss of beach nesting habitats as a result of coastal development.

Disney Conservation Efforts
The Walt Disney Company is passionately committed to the protection of sea turtles and their ocean habitats. Find out what Disney is doing for marine turtles—and how you can help, too!

“I have learned from the animal world, and what everyone will learn who studies it, is a renewed sense of kinship with the Earth and all its inhabitants.” – Walt Disney

Veterinarian inspecting small green sea turtle

Disney Conservation: Saving Sea Turtles

Most threats to sea turtles are accidental—but they’re no less deadly for these peaceful marine creatures.

Against the Odds
Newly hatched sea turtles have always faced difficult odds. Beach predators like raccoons and sand crabs can snatch them up as soon as they emerge from their eggs. Hatchlings that successfully make it to the ocean can fall prey to predatory fish and birds. Today, the tiny turtles face human obstacles as well. Sand castles, beach furniture, sand pits and trash can block their path to the sea—or their mother’s attempts to lay eggs in the first place. Hatchlings can confuse lights on roads and buildings with the natural glow of the night sky over the sea and head in the wrong direction, away from the water. Scientists estimate that only one in a thousand hatchlings survive to become an adult sea turtle.

Human Threats to Marine Turtles
Other threats to sea turtles include accidental boat strikes, entanglement in the nets and lines of commercial fishing boats (called bycatch), water pollution from oil spills and fertilizer run-off, discarded plastics that turtles mistake for food and coastal habitat destruction from seawalls and beach development. In some countries, sea turtle eggs are harvested and eaten, and the turtles are killed for their meat and beautiful shells, which are used to make jewelry and other luxury items.

Disney Is Helping Sea Turtles in the Wild
Five species of sea turtles inhabit Florida—and all are threatened and endangered. Climate change, death in fisheries bycatch and loss of nesting and foraging habitats are among the numerous threats that face sea turtles today. In an effort to reverse their decline, Disney’s support helps nonprofit organizations increase public awareness, monitor populations and restore marine habitat and beach nesting areas. The Disney Conservation Fund also supports research, education and community outreach grants to protect the olive ridley sea turtles in India and the hawksbill turtles in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Kenya.

Sea Turtle Rehab
Since 1986, Disney’s Animal, Science and Environment (ASE) team has nursed more than 300 endangered sea turtles back to health and returned them to the sea. The Seas at Epcot acts as a rehabilitation center for local sea turtles injured by boat strikes, entanglement or illness—including turtles “stunned” by cold water in the winter. Sea turtles are cold-blooded, so when tropical waters suddenly turn frigid, their body temperature drops and they are often unable to swim. Disney veterinarians use feeding tubes to administer food, antibiotics and anti-fungal medications to help rescued turtles fight off infections. Once recovered, healthy sea turtles are released back into their ocean home—often with a custom-fit satellite transmitter that allows scientists to track their movements and better understand their conservation needs.

Young people watching large green sea turtle through aquarium glass

Sea Turtles at Disney: Home Away From Home

Our sea turtles enjoy custom diets and rich habitats based on in-depth research into their natural history.

A Rich Underwater World
Enriching the lives of our animals is a guiding passion at Disney. At The Seas with Nemo & Friends, our sea turtle species share a 5.7 million gallon saltwater aquarium habitat with over 6,000 other animals like fish, sharks and stingrays. Our Disney-made Caribbean coral reef offers strategic spaces for the turtles to swim, explore, hide, rest and interact with other species much as they would in the wild.

You Are What You Eat?
Our green sea turtles enjoy a veggie diet, consuming about 20 pounds of romaine, green leaf and red leaf lettuce and cabbage each day. They get their name because of the color of the fat under their shells—they eat so much seagrass in the wild that their fat turns green! Meanwhile loggerhead turtles are carnivores, so their daily diet includes 1 pound of squid and 2 pounds of herring—plus a specially formulated sea turtle vitamin!

Veterinary Care and Animal Training
The animal care experts at The Seas use positive training techniques to encourage desired behaviors that the turtles—and their human Guests—will enjoy. The sea turtles come to the surface of the aquarium at feeding times when signaled, which helps the animal care experts monitor the animals’ diets and provides the opportunity to do a visual inspection of each animal.

The Story of Little Crush
A small and very sick green sea turtle washed ashore near Melbourne Beach, FL and was brought to The Seas at Epcot. Disney’s veterinary care team found that “Little Crush” had swallowed over 70 pieces of marine litter, from balloons and plastic bags to monofilament line and string. Thankfully, the spa treatment rehabilitation he received at Epcot was successful, and the 5-pound turtle was released back into the ocean at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort. Little Crush’s GPS turtle tracker revealed that the youngster logged an incredible 536 miles (863 km) in his first 102 days of freedom and health!

Green sea turtle swimming among tropical fish

Sea Turtles Are Amazing!

How do these massive, cold-blooded, air-breathing reptiles take to the ocean so well? Through specialized adaptations!

Ocean Adaptations
Sea turtles’ streamlined bodies are remarkably adapted to ocean life. Their front legs have been modified into elongated flippers that they use for swimming, while their short, wide hind flippers act as rudders for steering. Their vision underwater is better than ours, and they have an acute sense of smell for locating food. Although they live in the ocean, they must come to the surface to breathe air. Sea turtles usually surface every 20 minutes to breathe, but during periods of rest they can stay underwater for several hours!

Underwater Diet
The diet of a green sea turtle depends on its age! Juveniles feed on jellyfish, worms and other small animals at the surface of the ocean. But at the age of 2 or 3 they become herbivores, feeding only on algae and sea grasses. Loggerheads, on the other hand, are carnivores. They have a massive beak that is strong enough to crush the shells of the mollusks and crustaceans they eat. Young loggerheads eat invertebrates like jellyfish and small crabs, while adults feed on larger, hard-shelled animals like horseshoe crabs, clams and other crunchy invertebrates.

Eggs, Eggs and More Eggs
Young sea turtles spend their lives resting, migrating with the seasons and moving between habitats. Male sea turtles never return to land, and females return only to lay eggs. Upon reaching maturity—at 25 to 50 years of age—females return to the same beach where they were born to lay their eggs. They emerge from the sea at night, crawl above the tide line and dig a nest in the sand with their wide back flippers. After laying an average of 100 ping-pong ball sized eggs, they cover the nest with sand and return to the sea. Females repeat this process 5 to 6 times during their summer nesting season—laying about 600 eggs!—then migrate back to their home waters until they return to nest again in 3 years.

Ping Pong Boil
A sea turtle begins life inside a leathery egg buried in the sand. The gender of the turtles depends on the temperature of the sand—cooler sands produce more males, warmer sands produce more females! After about 2 months, the sea turtle nest hatches—which is called a “boil,” because it looks like the nest is boiling over with turtles. The hatchlings dig their way out of the sand and start crawling toward the brightest light they see—the moon reflecting on the water. Once in the sea, they catch and ride ocean currents, and are rarely seen again—which is why some scientists call the first year of a sea turtle’s life the “lost year.”

Green sea turtle swimming among tropical fish

You Can Help Sea Turtles, Too!

You don’t have to live near the ocean to protect these endangered sea creatures!

Eat Wisely. Some fisheries catch fish using tools and techniques that can trap unsuspecting sea turtles. Next time you dine out or are at the grocery store, be sure to ask for sustainable seafood options that do no harm to sea turtles. For a handy cheat sheet, download the free Seafood Watch app for your mobile device. You’ll learn about sustainable seafood options in your area as well as discover which items to avoid. Walt Disney Parks and Resorts is proud to collaborate with the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program to select wild and farmed seafood that is not overfished or harvested in ways that may compromise the well-being of our oceans, lakes, rivers and streams.

Hang on Tight to Your Balloons! While losing a balloon can be a bit of a downer for us, it can be downright dangerous for sea turtles. Flyaway balloons often end up in the ocean where currents converge and sea turtles feed. These docile ocean-dwellers tend to mistake burst balloons for food, which can be life-threatening for them. Help keep sea turtles healthy and the ocean waters clean by making sure your balloons don’t get away from you. One helpful tip is to attach a weight to your balloon so it doesn’t accidentally fly away—keep an eye out for this strategy in practice throughout Walt Disney Parks and Resorts!

Bag the Disposable Bag. When plastic bags end up in the ocean it can take decades for them to decompose. To make matters worse, sea turtles often mistake this floating garbage for one of their favorite foods: jellyfish. Purchasing a reusable grocery bag and recycling plastics are both great ways to protect nature, reduce waste and help sea turtles!

Tell a Friend. One of the most important things we can do for sea turtles is to share information about the threats they face and how each of us is able to help. Did you learn something new from visiting our page? If so, please share it with someone you know!

Visit the websites below to learn how Disney is making the world a better place for wildlife and their habitats—and discover other fun ways you can make a difference, too!

Disney Conservation Fund (DCF)

Disney's Animal Kingdom park

The Seas with Nemo & Friends

Friends for Change

Disneynature

UF Archie Carr Center for Sea Turtle Research

Seafood Watch

“I have learned from the animal world, and what everyone will learn who studies it, is a renewed sense of kinship with the Earth and all its inhabitants.” – Walt Disney

Hours

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

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  • For assistance with your Walt Disney World visit, please call (407) 939-5277.
  • 7:00 AM to 11:00 PM Eastern Time. Guests under 18 years of age must have parent or guardian permission to call.
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