Vacation Hot Spot: Florida Keys Turtle Hospital
Bob McNally 08.09.16
In recent years sea turtles have gained water-bound rock star status on a par with manatees and dolphins. They’re protected, but similar to manatees, many turtles are injured by power boats zipping along, which wallop turtles when they surface for air or food.
The Turtle Hospital on Marathon is a non-profit outfit that does remarkable work in saving injured sea turtles from boat injuries, plus other ailments like cancerous sores, which are surgically removed.
Turtles of all sizes and shapes are kept in large tanks while in various stages of recovery, and the entire operation is open to visitors during guided tours ideal for families.
Some turtles have just arrived and have obvious problems, such as cracked shells, deep lesions from boat motors, missing limbs, etc. Some are so badly injured that release back into the wild is impossible, so they’re permanent residents. But most recover and eventually are nurtured back to health and released to the open sea in about a year.
Most turtles in the hospital are the common green sea turtle. But the hospital also has loggerhead, leatherback, and even the rare hawksbill sea turtle.
During our visit a clutch of dozens of golf-ball size loggerhead turtles had hatched and were being raised for release. Once large enough they’d be transported well offshore and released away from many predator dangers near land, thus ensuring an increase survival rate for the hatchlings.