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Tripod the Urban Sea Turtle

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Thursday, July 02, 2015


Tripod the Urban Sea Turtle
The ID shot that was compare to the sea turtle images on the KPCC and NPR websites to confirm it was the same one from the broadcast.  | Hugh Ryono

The sea turtle made famous by KPCC and National Public Radio.

Tripod is a medium to small green sea turtle that calls the San Gabriel River near Long Beach and Seal Beach home. What sets this little turtle apart from others in the colony of sea turtles that reside in this urban river environment is that it’s nationally known.

Tripod became part of a KPCC / National Public Radio feature that was about the sea turtles of the river early this year. During the segment on the Aquarium of the Pacific’s citizen scientists turtle monitoring program Tripod was spotted in distress by one of the volunteers. Fortunately the National Marine Fisheries Service’s Dan Lawson was being interviewed at that moment and he made an impromptu rescue of the fishing line-entangled sea turtle while the NPR reporter watched. After being disentangled Tripod was released back into the river.

Why the name Tripod? This resident turtle is missing one of its rear flippers. The entanglement was on its front flipper, not the rear and was not the cause of the missing flipper. This disability doesn’t seem to have hindered the little critter. Case in point: last week my wife Pam and I spotted Tripod in the river near the Second Street Bridge while taking field notes and photo id shots of the sea turtles. How do we know for sure it was the same sea turtle? Well I took one of my ID shots and matched it with a photo of Tripod on land that was on the National Public Radio website and a video of the rescue that was on the KPCC website. The patterns of the scales on its head, which we used for identification, matched.

Right now the Aquarium of the Pacific and NOAA’s photo ID project is mostly being done by myself and Pam. But in the near future we’re hoping to incorporate more people in the project such as the Aquarium’s Citizen Scientists sea turtle monitoring volunteers to help increase the database of ID images of the sea turtles in the river.

Who knows, we may start giving out more nicknames to these urban sea turtles as we get to know them better.

Tripod the Urban Sea Turtle
Tripod the urban sea turtle is identifiable not just by its missing rear flipper but also from the patterns of the scales on its head.  | Hugh Ryono

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