I wanted to visit The Turtle hospital since the first time I heard about it a couple of years ago. I never had the chance to go. I have to say I am a sucker for turtles—I just love them. They are just so stinking cute!
I always knew that you could find a lot of sea turtles in Florida, but I had never encountered one.
First of all, maybe you are like us and you don’t know anything about sea turtles. Know that there are seven species of sea turtles worldwide, and you can find five of them in the Florida Keys.
- The Loggerhead can weigh more than 300 pounds. This species is threatened and is the most common turtle species in Florida.
- The Green turtle can weigh up to 500 pounds, eats mainly grasses, and is endangered. This is mainly because some countries like Cuba still eats its meat, and its eggs are a delicacy because they are thought to be an aphrodisiac.
- The Hawksbill can weigh up to 150 pounds and is also endangered. Its beautiful shell is used to create jewelry, glasses, and other objects…
- The Leatherback turtle mainly eats jellyfish and can weigh up to 2000 pounds. It is the largest reptile alive. It eats 80% of its weight in jellyfish every day and is also endangered.
- The Kemps Ridley turtle can weigh up to 100 pounds and was named after a Key West fisherman. It is endangered as well. They have unique nesting behaviors; the turtle will nest on the same beach its mom nested on.
We as humans sometimes tend to forget that we are not the only species on our beautiful planet, and that everything we do is affecting animals everywhere.
Human activities have increased the risk of threats to sea turtles’ survival like marine debris, plastic in the water, oil spills, boat strikes…
The hospital is working 24 hours 7 days a week. It works on a straightforward basis: members of the general public, should they find a turtle, are able to call the hospital, and they will dispatch people who will come get the injured turtle. If you find an injured turtle, you get to name it. The turtles are usually at the hospital for a short stay, but some are permanent residents because the extent of their injuries is so severe, they will never be able to return to the wild. The hospital has released more than 2000 turtles since its opening in 1986.
The main missions of the hospital are:
- Rehabilitate sick or injured turtles and return them to the wild
- Educate the public about the sea turtles
- Conduct and assist with sea turtle researches
- Work for environmental legislation to make the beaches and water safe and clean for the sea turtles
How can you help?
- You can contribute to a non-profit organization for sea turtle (You can even adopt a truble!)
- You can help to clean the beach
- Be responsible while driving a boat
- Dispose of fishing lines properly
- Help stop unregulated coastal development and non-sustainable agricultural practices
- Do not buy sea turtle products, oil leather, meat or eggs…
All I can say is that you should go there and see all the amazing things the team is doing to help the turtles. We loved it. It was very interesting to know about all of these. I didn’t even know the sea turtles are endangered. I wish I were living closer because I would love to be a volunteer and participate in this mission. If you are traveling to the Florida Keys, I highly recommend that you stop at the hospital. I was amazing to see this place. Our guide Catherine was very nice and she was able to answer all of our questions.
Make sure to call ahead and make a reservation, because they are pretty busy. The visit lasts about 90 minutes; there is a presentation and then you are able to see the turtles staying at the hospital. They explain to you what injury each turtle has. You can see the turtles and take a lot of pictures.