The Turtle Hospital. Rescue, Rehab, Release.

Every Little Bit Counts

Outreach is an important part of theTurtleHospital. It allows us to reach out into the community and bring our education beyond the walls of our facility. There are numerous events and festivals that allow us the opportunities to share the wonders of sea turtles and the importance of their species to our environment.

Just recently, in the month of January, we have been fortunate to participate in three outreach programs. The first was on January 23rd at Stanley Switlik Elementary School where the students were having a science fair. Along for the ride was Fisher, our educational turtle at the hospital. She is a juvenile Loggerhead who is about one and half years old. She is at the hospital as part of our head start program, meaning; she is receiving all the necessary nutrients and vitamins she needs to grow at the rate she should naturally be growing without any interruptions. Once she reaches three years of age, she will be large enough for us to release her and she will have a much better chance of survival.

Fisher the Loggerhead, Educational Ambassador for the Turtle Hospital

The students were all very attentive and interested to learn about Fisher and all the things a sea turtle does. They asked excellent questions and were genuinely interested in all the things that can happen to a sea turtle as they journey through oceans. There was one picture in particular that we show during our outreach programs that truly struck a cord with all the students. It is a picture of numerous pieces of trash that had come from one Loggerhead sea turtle. An impaction as we say at the hospital, where this particular turtle ate all the items in the picture and made the turtle sick. In the picture there are some lollipop sticks, so I asked the students: “How many of you like to eat lollipops?” Just about every head shoots up into the air. Then I ask: “What do you do with your lollipop sticks when you are finished?” All in unions: “Throw it in the trash!” Excellent I tell them, however not everyone seems to be as diligent about their waste as these students. I explain how even trash on the ground here at their school can eventually end up in the ocean and in a sea turtle’s stomach. Frowns all around. I let them know that if they want to help these turtles out, the best thing to do is throw out their trash and recycle what can be recycled. Also, even picking up just one piece of trash can make the world of difference for these sea turtles and our oceans. Every little bit counts, I say. The horn goes off and the next group of students comes around to learn about the amazing world of sea turtles.

Students with Education Specialist Liz and Fisher the loggerhead from the Turtle Hospital

The next outreach was on the 26th of January at theCommunityPark inMarathon. It was Family Fun day and there was music, activities and all sorts of vendors located on the field. Once again, my trusty sidekick Fisher and I were out to promote education on sea turtles. Quite to my joy, there were numerous children there from Stanley Switlick, each one running up to Fisher with their families and shouting “We saw you at our school!” They then proceed to tell their entire family about Fisher and the trials and tribulations that sea turtles can go through. I smile; glad to hear that these children have learned something and that they are so enthusiastic to share this knowledge with their families. The students were also eager to share their knowledge with complete strangers that happened to stop by our tent and explain to them all things that can happen with a sea turtle out in the ocean. One student even explained to a couple about the trash the turtles can eat and that if we all take the time to pick up a piece of trash, it will help. Every little bit counts, I think to myself, giving the boy an appreciative smile.

The very next day (January 27th), Fisher and I were headed up to Key Largo to participate in the annual Stone Crab and Seafood Festival. There was a lot going on from vendors to food to music and contests. Fisher once again drew a crowd all day long. No mind that the wind picked, we had a job to do, and that was to educate as many people as possible on the importance of sea turtles and the role they play in our environment. It was a successful day with many questions and various comments about the pictures displayed. Once again, the picture of the trash stunned just about everyone.

Trash found in one loggerhead’s intestines

I said my spiel about trash and the impact it has and what we can do to help these turtles out. As the day drew to a close, I had several children come up to check out Fisher. I noticed this was not their first go-around visiting and smiled at they laughed and talked about Fisher and how ‘cool’ she was. As their families gathered them up for the journey home, one of young boys stooped down to pick something up off the ground. I noticed it was a plastic cup and watched with joy as the boy walked over to the trash and discarded the offensive object. A smile spread across my face as I watched the boy and his family head home from a day of adventure, thinking: Every little bit counts.

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