Four different species of sea turtle are treated at the Turtle Hospital: Loggerhead, Green, Hawksbill, and Kemp’s Ridley’s. The hospital receives numerous sick or injured turtles each year and the number of patients is usually about 45 at any given time (although this number fluctuates depending on the time of year). In the summer months the hospital receives a large number of hatchling turtles which were either disoriented by artificial lighting or trapped in their nests. These hatchlings are nursed back to health and released as quickly as possible.
Turtles at the Hospital are divided into three basic groups-
Current Patients: Turtles that are currently under active medical care, typically 20-30 turtles.
Permanent Residents: These sea turtles’ injuries are too severe to place them back in the wild. Each of these sea turtles are ambassadors for their species, allowing us at the turtle hospital to educate the public and local schools about the dangers that sea turtles are exposed to in the wild. Currently, 13 sea turtles call the hospital’s 100,000 gl. saltwater swimming pool home.
Released Turtles: Previous patients that have recovered to the point that they can return to life in the wild. Since 1986, the Turtle Hospital has released and estimated 1,500 sea turtles back into the ocean.
How we get our patients…
The Turtle Hospital receives its patients in a variety of ways. Many turtles are found by boaters, divers, or commercial fishermen who contact the Coast Guard or Marine Patrol to transport the turtle to the hospital. Some turtles are driven to the hospital from other parts of the state, and some even fly! A severe cold spell in the winter of 1999-2000 resulted in hundreds of lethargic sea turtles washing up onto the northeastern coast of the U.S. Rehab facilities in New England were overwhelmed by the large numbers and so the Coast Guard flew large numbers of turtles to Florida, where they were taken to rehab facilities across the state. But what if the turtle absolutely, positively has to be at the Turtle Hospital overnight? Why they fly Fed Ex of course! Tiny, a 250 pound loggerhead, was flown from the New England Aquarium to Miami by Federal Express.
**A note of caution – all sea turtles in U.S. waters are considered to be either threatened or endangered species and it is therefore illegal to handle or transport them unless you have the proper permit. Always contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) at 1-888-404-FWCC if you find a sick, injured, or dead sea turtle.**