Use of commercial foods in the headstarting of hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata, Cheloniidae)
Headstarting is a recovery strategy for sea turtle populations. It requires captive handling of hatchlings, which are transferred from nesting beaches with low percentages of hatching success. Providing adequate nutritional resources for hatchlings is costly but important, as it influences growth rates of young turtles. Assessing the potential of commercial diets as option for promoting healthy growth and reducing the costs of maintenance for captive Hawksbill Turtles, we evaluated the viability of two commercial feeds on the growth rates of the Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata). We fed turtles to satiation twice a day between the sixth and tenth month of age. Individuals fed with fish flour meal (n=20) exhibited average body mass and straight carapace length (SCL) growth rates of 2.45±1.39 g.day-1 and 0.04±0.02
cm.day-1, respectively. The turtles fed with squid flour meal (n =13) displayed growth rates of 3.35±1.11 g.day-1 and 0.04±0.01 cm.day-1. These differences, associated with the low avidity of the specimens for these pellets, may be due to the food characteristics, particularly the size, flotation capability and palatability of the food. However, the presence of amino acids and vitamins in these compounds, and their low cost, can make them viable as a supplementary item suggesting the use of commercial foods only as a dietary supplement.
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