Thursday, January 29, 2009

Turtle Hospital in Marathon, Florida - Archive June 26, 2007

The weather is a steady 80 degrees. I am left with unpleasant itchy welts from the insects looming around the swamps of the Everglades. Fortunately, there are no prehistoric bugs in these parts.

Instead of bugs, we have predaceous barracudas. I observed them from a distance while snorkeling in the morning. They're frightened of humans and captivating to watch. These fish spend all day preying on smaller schools of fish.

The omnivorous parrotfishes gently tried to taste me using their colorful beaks. This is done in the same fashion as a curious baby uses its mouth to discover its surroundings. The water was fairly clear and I could see a new explorable world just below my toes. This is largest coral reef in the Americas, and the third largest in the world.

I rested on the beach and wrote briefly, then drove down an extension bridge linking one island of the Keys to the next. While driving, I saw a sign for a Turtle Hospital. I took a hard right into the parking lot and meandered in. I was greeted by a young girl working the front desk. I asked her if there were any volunteer positions at the hospital. She told me there were many openings and always looking for additional help.

The turtle hospital gave an impressive tour (open to the public) of the facility. The first portion of the tour was aimed at teaching about conservation and methods to prevent problems from pollution to disease in sea turtles. The other half of the tour showed us the aftermath of our neglect.

A turtle the size of a small lap dog rested on an operating board waking up from surgery. The poor turtle had a tube shoved down its throat. His face was sickly and doped out. The tour guide explained that the veterinarians must keep these turtles alert because they are conscious breathers, which means they have to think to breath. To wake the sea turtles, the vets would rub their fins until their eyes opened. This also makes the turtles believe that they're swimming in the ocean causing their fins to move like built in oars.

After surgery the turtles are taken outside to special rehabilitation tanks. Most of these creatures looked like they were on a steady path to recovery gracefully floating in six feet rubber bins. While others were barely alive. The turtles had many different problems ranging from swallowing fishing hooks to being hit by boats.

If the turtles heal properly they are moved into a 100,000 gallon ocean water filled pool. Some of the severely injured turtles have to stay in this pool for the remainder of their lives and most sea turtles live at least 80 years.

Information about the Turtle Hospital and Volunteer Opportunities: