The fact that humans have a tendency to overindulge is no secret. However, it is very rare to hear about animals doing the same. But that certainly appears to be the case with nine-year-old Ernie, a loggerhead sea turtle that resides at the Manchester Sea Life aquarium.
According to center officials, Ernie is fed three meals a day. Each comprise of delicious and nutritious foods like lettuce, cabbage, broccoli stems, cucumbers, sprouts, squids and fish heads. However, after gobbling down every bite, Ernie does not retreat into his shell to rest. Instead, he swims around the half-million liter tank in search of 'snacks' - morsels dropped by the 35 other species that reside there.
Unfortunately, the extra food he's been consuming reflected on the scales at Ernie's first annual weigh-in, which took place a few weeks ago. According to aquarium curator, Lucy Handel, the sea turtle was a few pounds above his healthy weight, leading them to examine the cause. That's when the team noticed that Ernie's back flippers were starting to appear a little flabby, leaving them with no choice but to try cutback his food intake.
Since there is not much they can do about Ernie's incessant snacking, Lucy and her team have decided to cut the quantity of his regular meals by a third. They believe that this 'diet' will allow the turtle get back his svelte figure, within 8-10 weeks - just in time for summer!
Sea loggerhead turtles like Ernie are known to graze all day. However in the wild, they swim for miles, burning calories almost as quickly as they consume them. And though the Sea Life officials try to emulate that by feeding Ernie from different parts of the tank at each meal, the exercise is clearly not enough to keep the turtle as fit as he should be.
This is not the first time Ernie is making headlines. In 2013, he became famous for his penchant for sprouts - the only food he would consume for breakfast, lunch and dinner. What was even more unusual is the then eight-year-old only ate sprouts that were bought from the local Asda supermarket. If the aquarium officials offered him any another brand, the snooty turtle refused to eat them.
Rescued from a Cayman Islands farm that bred turtles for soup, Ernie arrived at the Manchester Sea Life Center in 2013. Since then, he has been a mascot for the center's 'Breed, Rescue and Protect program' and even helped raise money to build a new turtle hospital on the island of Zakynthos in Greece, where 90% of the world's loggerhead sea turtle nests are located.
Loggerhead sea turtles spend most of their lives in water. Females only come to shore to lay eggs. The adult marine reptiles which weigh up to 300 lbs, are preyed upon only by large fish, like sharks, and are therefore not vulnerable. However, the eggs and young ones often fall prey to numerous ground predators. This together with accidental deaths caused by fishing trawls, loss of nesting habitats and the fact that females lay eggs every two to three years, has resulted in placing these ancient animals on the highly endangered species list.
Resources: Dailymail.co.uk,manchestereveningnews.co.uk, guardian.co.uk