The green sea turtle spent Friday morning swimming near a round observation window at the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher. Eager visitors snapped photos, while small children pressed faces to glass to get eye-to-eye with the animal. There was no way for the turtle to know a big announcement was only minutes away.
Soon dozens of Aquarium guests gathered at the two-story viewing windows of the Cape Fear Shoals for the morning dive show. Early in the program, Educator Ruth Gourley announced a special treat.
“You will be the first to know the name of the green sea turtle swimming in the exhibit,” said Gourley.
As the show progressed, guests listened and watched as Aquarium diver Tim Wright, submerged in the massive exhibit, answered their questions about the hundreds of sea creatures swimming around him. Then, as if on cue, the green sea turtle circled near his back. It was time.
Gourley gave a brief history of the turtle and an explanation of the public naming contest. More than 1,100 public votes were cast for three names initially chosen by staff-Emerald, Jade and Shelldon. In addition, the voting raised nearly $600 for conservation efforts. Then Wright lifted a weighted sign hidden on the exhibit floor and flipped it to reveal the winner. Several children sitting closest to the viewing windows pumped their fists and cheered when they saw the blue letters spelling out “Shelldon.”
“We are honored so many of our Aquarium visitors and friends took part in the naming,” said Aquarium Director Peggy Sloan, after the reveal. “This rehabilitated sea turtle grew from an ill hatchling to a strong, thriving juvenile here at the Aquarium. It is a special ambassador helping to educate hundreds of thousands of visitors a year on the plight of sea turtles. It needed and received a special name.”
The green sea turtle arrived as a hatchling to the Aquarium after a late season nest in Emerald Isle was excavated due to cold weather in November 2010. The animal, officially identified as CM06, weighed less than one ounce (28 grams) and measured slightly longer than 2 inches (5.8 centimeters). The animal was suffering from a respiratory infection and other medical issues for which it received treatment.
Permitting from the North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission allowed the animal to remain at the Aquarium. Green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) are threatened in North Carolina and endangered in other areas of the United States.