Published : Wednesday, 09 Jun 2010

By BETH PARKER/myfoxdc

BALTIMORE – A huge green sea turtle named Calypso certainly captured the attention of five-year-old Milan Tenn. Little Milan is visiting the National Aquarium in Baltimore with his grandparents. This is what they see, but behind the scenes at the aquarium, they are preparing to help turtles a thousand miles away.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has put the National Aquarium on standby to help care for animals injured in the Gulf oil spill. Brent Whitaker is the Aquarium’s deputy director for biological programs.

“We are learning daily about the animals that are coming ashore. How many are oiled. How many are not oiled. How many are surviving. How many are not surviving,” said Whitaker.

One of the steps they are taking at the National Aquarium is to drain all the water out of a giant pool. They are also preparing to quickly install a heating system. Sick animals need higher water temperatures. Just like when you’re sick, it is nice to be cuddled up under a blanket.

The aquarium will soon gain more space by releasing the now healthy Kemp’s Ridley turtles out in the wild. They were nursed back to health after being rescued from bitter cold water off the coast of New England. The animals nearly drowned. Creatures who run into oil can suffer the same fate.

“It may drown. It may be coated. It may clog its mouth. It may clog its ability to breathe,” said Whitaker.

The oil also damages the animals’ food sources; even those that survive the spill may be hungry and searching for food.

A portion of entry fee visitors pay to get into the National Aquarium goes to animal care – including programs to help the animals in the oil spill, so this is a good time to pay the a visit to the aquarium.

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