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CZAAWE Resource Article
Optimal-rearing density for head-starting green turtles (Chelonia mydas Linnaeus, 1758)
Year of publication
ex situ conservation
While ex situ conservation programs of juvenile green turtles (Chelonia mydas Linnaeus, 1758), before release to natural habitats, have been conducted in several countries, the optimal-stocking density for husbandry has not yet been reported. The optimization of stocking density was the main purpose of this study. The 15-day-old post-hatching turtles (29.30 ± 0.05 g body weight) were reared in round fiberglass tanks at various stocking densities including 20 turtles/m3 (20TM), 40 turtles/m3 (40TM), 60 turtles/m3 (60TM), and 80 turtles/m3 (80TM), over an 8-week trial. Water quality, survival, growth performance, feed utilization, aggressive behavior, fecal digestive enzymes, and hematological parameters were compared between the treatments, and were used as indicators of a successful captive rearing program. The water quality across the four treatments was in the standard range, but a high-stocking density reduced the quality significantly. No mortality was observed in any treatment group. Superior growth and feed utilization were only observed with the 40TM treatment, relative to the others (P < 0.05). The turtles in this group had no aggressive behavior, as indicated by observing hind limb biting. This treatment manipulated the level of proteolytic activity of pepsin and trypsin in response to density stressor, but not amylase, lipase, and chymotrypsin. The 40TM treatment also maintained the hematological characteristics, indicating no negative effects on health status. Overall, the findings indicate that the captivity program of post-hatching turtles at 40 turtles/m3 is the preferred option in their head-started propagation, as well as in public displays in zoos or aquaria. Zoo Biol. 35:454–461, 2016. © Wiley Periodicals, Inc.