The National Aquarium is heartbroken to report the passing of Calypso, the 500-pound resident green sea turtle who inspired awe and wonder in millions of guests since arriving at the Aquarium in 2002.
On the morning of February 3, prior to the Aquarium opening to the public, Calypso was found unresponsive in the Blacktip Reef exhibit. Staff members responded immediately yet, despite their best efforts, it was confirmed that Calypso had already passed. At this time, the cause of Calypso's death is unknown. Preliminary tests completed by the Aquarium's Animal Health and Welfare team did not reveal any obvious cause of death and Calypso had not exhibited any recent indication of illness or distress.
Calypso was rescued by the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation (Riverhead, NY) in 2000 after stranding in the Long Island Sound with an infected front left flipper, which was later amputated to prevent the spread of infection to healthy tissue. When rescued, she weighed just 6 pounds and was believed to be approximately 2 to 3 years old. At the time, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration deemed any sea turtle with an amputation non-releasable.
In 2002, Calypso was welcomed to her permanent home at the National Aquarium where she instantly became an iconic favorite of both guests and staff, presiding first over the Aquarium's Wings in the Water exhibit before eventually transitioning to Blacktip Reef in 2013. In the years since her arrival, Calypso had grown to measure approximately 4.5 feet in length and weigh more than 500 pounds.
Calypso was a central figure of Blacktip Reef, delighting guests by gracefully swimming by and rising up to break the surface of the water before diving back to the depths of the massive 270,000-gallon, Indo-Pacific reef habitat. Children and adults alike were known to take their time lingering over Blacktip Reef, awaiting a Calypso sighting. For many guests and members, a visit to the Aquarium was simply not complete without Calypso. In fact, her presence had become so iconic that, due to popular demand, the Aquarium's gift shop commissioned a special plush sea turtle without its front left flipper.
"To say we are heartbroken today is woefully inadequate," said National Aquarium Chief Executive Officer John Racanelli. "We are truly devastated at losing Calypso. From the staff that interacted with her every day to our guests and members, all who encountered Calypso will never forget her. Arriving here as a survivor of cold stunning, she was a living testament to our commitment to animal rescue, care and welfare. Over the past 18 years, she inspired millions and embodied our conservation mission. She was an irreplaceable member of our family, and every one of us—along with an entire generation of Aquarium visitors from around the world—will miss her."
Calypso was healthy throughout her life at the National Aquarium. She received annual physicals, was monitored daily and had shown no recent signs of distress. A full necropsy (an animal autopsy) will be performed to investigate how and why Calypso died.