Back in May, we went to Marathon down in the Keys for a dragon boat race. When our friends ask us about our plans for Sunday, we told them that we would be visiting the Turtle Hospital. My friends found the idea very funny. Do they only admit turtles? There really is a hospital for turtles?
So here you go, a report of my visit, to show that there really is a Turtle Hospital. They have a pretty nice website http://www.turtlehospital.org/ Lots of pics about rescued turtles (even a little oil-covered baby named Exxon…). There are also pictures taken this past winter, when it was unusually cold in Florida. The hospital was crawling with turtles…
Look, they even have a turtle ambulance!
Inside the visitor center, we signed up for the tour. There are some trivia and artifacts of sea turtles, as well as a gift shop. When the tour started, we first watched a slide show, a 101 intro about us about the different species of sea turtles found in Florida and the perilous life of a sea turtle.
Next we visited the emergency room. Using a stuffed toy our guide shows us the procedures when a turtle is delivered to the emergency room. We found out that turtles are conscious breathers? That means that while they are under anaesthesia an assistant has to stand by and pump oxygen into the turtle’s lung at regular intervals so it won’t suffocate.
They have equipment to take digital X Rays of the patients. Digital is useful because the doctors are volunteers so they are not at the hospital all the time. Now they can view the digital image from wherever they are and give diagnosis quickly. These x-rays show that the turtle has a fishing hook in the stomach! Fortunately it’s a round hook rather than a J hook, and can safely pass through the body without damage. (Please, if you read this and you fishes, get the round hooks! It’s safer for the birds and sea turtles who may swallow it.)
Next we walked over to visit the patients. First we went to the ICU where each patient has his own room, er, kiddy pool.
We met Kentucky. She had been biten by a shark but is lucky enough to live to tell the tale! (you can read more of her story at http://www.turtlehospital.org/blog/?m=201004) The shark bites are visible on her shell. She seems excited to see us and regale in her adventure!
This turtle suffers the bubble butt syndrome. This happens when a motor boat hits the turtle so hard that the shell is misshapened. An air bubble forms inside the shell. This is a problem as the turtle can no longer sink below water, meaning that he cannot find food and becomes a easy target for predators. The doctors have not found a cure yet, but they put a weight on the shell so the turtle can sink below the surface. However, as the turtle grow, the old plates on the shell fall off, so the weight is not a permanent solution. The turtles will thus have to spend the rest of their lives in the sanctuary.
This is Romeo. He’s a baby but sadly has lost a flipper already!!
This is Joe. He was born without one flipper then got another one bitten off by a predator. But we are told that Joe is a tough guy and seems to swim around pretty well with just two flippers so they may release him into the wild.
Isn’t he a beautiful turtle?
Besides the individual Intensive Care Units, there are two big pools. They used to be swimming pools of a hotel but are now donated to the hospital. The pool gets water from the sea outside. Here lives the turtles who are soon to be released back to the wild as well as those permanent residents.
You can see the weight affixed to the rear on some of the turtle shells. It help turtles suffering from bubble butt syndrome to sink down.
At the end of the tour we were given some pellets to feed the turtles.
What an interesting learning experience it was. Even though I’ve visited already, next time I come to the keys, I’d want to drop by to see the new patients and old regulars again!