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The Florida Aquarium has over 200 employees with jobs as diverse as the animals that call the facility home. We have educators that teach school programs, sales staff that sell Aquarium-themed weddings and events, and we have a wide variety of animal care staff. And, that’s just dipping below the surface! We have biologists that care for animals that you might see on a visit to the Aquarium, but did you know there are biologists that work solely with animals behind-the-scenes? They are quarantine biologists!
The Florida Aquarium is a member of The Association of Zoos and Aquarium (AZA). This national network of facilities is not only a list of great places to visit, but works to provide sustainable populations of animals under our care. For example, if The Florida Aquarium seahorses have babies and another aquarium has a need for that species, the Aquarium will send the animals to that facility. The same thing happens when the Aquarium has a suitable home for a species from another zoo or aquarium. Once the animals arrive, our quarantine biologists roll up their sleeves and get to work. These specialized biologists care for animals that arrive to our Aquarium from other facilities, and also care for sick animal residents.
“Once animals arrive to The Florida Aquarium, they undergo a period of quarantine time. This period of time can vary from 30-90 days and depends on the species and health of the animal” –Tamara Arndt, quarantine biologist. This period of time is used to monitor the animal’s health. Once they clear quarantine, they are introduced to their new home on the exhibit pathway! Tamara takes care of a wide variety of animals in quarantine, including sick and injured sea turtles. One of her patients is a green sea turtle named Banner.
Tamara says “Banner is a boat strike victim who came to the Aquarium to be nursed back to health. He receives weekly cold laser treatments by our veterinary staff to restore the health of his shell. Banner has been deemed non-releasable by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), which means that he would not be able to survive if released back into the wild.” His boat strike injury has caused him to have “bubble butt,” a condition that makes Banner unable to dive down deep into the water and hunt for food effectively. Once Banner’s shell treatments are complete, he can be moved to a permanent home.
Tamara also takes care of animals when their home gets a renovation. The Aquarium is currently revamping a habitat in our Bays and Beaches gallery. All of the animals that were in that habitat were moved into one of our quarantine spaces. One of the residents is a juvenile nurse shark. The nurse shark has been learning target training. Target training is a technique is used to feed specific diets to animals like our sharks. To begin target training, Tamara taps the water’s surface in the exhibit with a buoy which signals to the animal the session has begun. She then feeds the nurse shark a piece of fish or squid. This pattern is repeated until all of the food is eaten. Ensuring that our animals are still receiving top care while they are in a temporary home is just as important as when they’re in their permanent home. Tamara says “I love to inspire people to care about the natural environment and the animals they connect with at our Aquarium help to do just that.” It is my hope that they take that knowledge and do something positive for our blue planet.”
The Florida Aquarium is dedicated to providing amazing animal care for all of our residents, and that starts with having an amazing staff that is passionate and dedicated to their well-being. Whether it is an injured sea turtle that needs a little TLC, a group of seahorses we are welcoming to their new home, or a nurse shark that needs somewhere to stay, our quarantine staff works around the clock to ensure our animals are safe, healthy and thriving.