In 1993, a bar called Fanny’s was fully renovated and is now the building known as The Turtle Hospital. Today, The Turtle Hospital is the only state-certified veterinary hospital in the world for sea turtles. More than half of the hospital’s equipment has been generously donated by hospitals, doctors, private individuals and organizations. In 2002, SIMA (Surfing Industry Management Association) generously donated a new radiograph (x-ray) machine and a Turtle Ambulance which is used to pick up our new turtle patients. The Sea Turtle Preservation Society of Brevard County donated a new radiograph developer to the hospital.
The Turtle Hospital was solely funded by Hidden Harbor Motel until 2005 when Hurricane Wilma caused the closure of the motel. The hospital is now funded by personal donors, grant and foundation money, merchandise sales and the provided guided educational experiences.
Visit the education center and gift shop first to learn about sea turtles, their threats, and The Turtle Hospital itself. Staff is available for questions about sea turtles and to help you join a guided educational program if you wish. Lots of turtle merchandise is for sale here too, including many items handcrafted by local artists. Visit our store online!: Turtle Hospital Store
Educational experiences begin in the room pictured below, where an education specialist provides an interactive presentation for visitors about sea turtles, the dangers they face, and how we can help. The conference room also provides meeting space for Save-A-Turtle, a local turtle conservation group, and special veterinary/rehabilitation symposiums.
When the hospital has a new patient, it is first taken into the Emergency Room (ER) where algae and barnacles are scrubbed off, the turtle is also weighed, photographed, medicated, measured, and given wound care if necessary. X-rays are then taken of the new patient to determine the presence of foreign objects such as marine debris or internal fibropapilloma tumors.
Blood is then taken and analyzed in the hospital lab room for a chemistry profile of the turtle. Blood analysis reveals the overall general condition of the turtle and can reveal the presence of infections.
The turtle may then be scheduled for surgery. The operating room contains an anesthesia machine, endoscope, pulse oximeter, electric scalpel and laser. The most common surgeries are laser for removing fibropapilloma tumors and flipper amputations (usually caused by fishing line and trap rope line entanglement). Many endoscopies are also performed to detect internal fibropapilloma tumors or ingestion of foreign objects.
During the guided program, some visitors can pause to view an ongoing surgery through the observation window.
While Turtle Hospital employees can treat many common problems, veterinarians are needed to diagnose and to perform the surgeries. All of the veterinarians volunteer their time. Our primary veterinarians are Dr. Douglas Mader and Dr. Geri Diethelm of the Marathon Veterinary Hospital.