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  • Turtle hospital news: Volunteers provide needed service with a smile

  • Our big building means big work. The space is over 13 times the size of our original place on the island, so there’s a lot more opportunity for dirt to find a place to settle. And sea turtles don’t particularly care where all that water goes when they splash around in their tanks. So after spending all morning tending to our ...
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  • Our big building means big work. The space is over 13 times the size of our original place on the island, so there’s a lot more opportunity for dirt to find a place to settle. And sea turtles don’t particularly care where all that water goes when they splash around in their tanks. So after spending all morning tending to our current load of ever-increasing patients we pull out the buckets, mops and cloths to scrub and polish. It’s a lot of area, and with the average age of our permanent staff being somewhere between 65 and 75 we’re just not as zippy as we used to be.
    So when Tracy Wangui, one of our 2013 interns offered to bring a group of students from UNCG’s Office of Leadership & Service Learning Program here for a week we jumped at the prospect. In fact, Tracy came to our hospital through this same program prior to signing on as a summer intern. Participants refocus their time off from classes to explore their passions and possible career interests. The intent is to prepare them for life as an “active citizen” involved in all aspects of their community, including a commitment to social and environmental causes. And they were sure committed to doing whatever we asked them to!
    After helping with the fun stuff involving human-turtle interaction (feeding, scooping, cleaning tanks, bathing) we redirected their considerable, youthful energy to more mundane but necessary tasks. It doesn’t take but overnight for everything in the main rehab room, Sea Turtle Bay, to develop a coating of salt. One crew began mopping the walls to “de-crust” us. Another crew scoured every inch of the observation railing, which now shines like the day that it was installed. Windows and doors were cleaned, and our stainless kitchen components were scrubbed, polished and waxed (ironically with “Turtle Wax,” which for the record is NOT what we use on our turtles!) All the floors were swept and mopped, and despite the unique fragrance of sea turtles the place smelled really good. They also transported a lot of stuff to and from the intern house, and made large deposits at the local recycle center. 
    Speaking with them I found that they were not sure what to expect other than they were going to be “working with the turtles.” Once I handed them mops, bucket and rags they came to realize that running a sea turtle hospital means dealing with the whole package; it’s not all fun and turtle time. But they did it with a smile, and every day they came back wanting to do more. Thank you, Tracy, for putting together a great group of “elves” who busted their carapaces to make our building sparkle — and who gave our staff a break.
    Public tours on hold
    Page 2 of 3 - Jan. 4 was the last date for public tours for the immediate future as we devote January to training winter semester UNCW interns. They work on Saturday, giving our permanent staff a much appreciated weekend day off. 
    On Jan. 25 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. we are hosting local organizations from the towns Holly Ridge, Topsail Beach, North Topsail Beach and Surf City that have been so instrumental in getting us where we are today. Fire, police and rescue, members of all town hall staffs and elected officials (and members of their immediate families) can tour the hospital free of charge. It’s our chance to show our appreciation to all the towns and their staffs who have supported us over the years. Watch this column and our Facebook page for possible, additional opportunities for public tours over the next months. 
    Here they come
    We admitted another nine (as of this writing) cold-stunned turtles of various species, sizes and conditions. The vast majority of them recover, some sooner than others. Because all new admits must be kept quarantined in Sea Turtle Sick Bay for 60 days before either moving into the “big room” (or catching a ride on a ship headed for the Gulf Stream) all that glorious space we thought we had is now getting a bit crowded. Sea turtles are cold-blooded and cannot regulate their body temperature. That’s why a cold-stunned turtle can sometimes appear to be dead — it’s literally unable to move its flippers, head and often even close its eyes. You can help us by removing the turtle from the beach or water and placing it in an unheated area such as your garage, car or utility room. Do not try to warm it up! That could cause the turtle to go into shock. The NC state hotline for any stranding is: 252-241-7367 and the call will be picked up 24/7.  Locally, if you come across any turtle in distress you can text or phone our director, Jean Beasley, at 910-470-2800 or our beach director, Terry Meyer, at 910-470-2880. Please report any and all local sea turtle activity (strandings, injured or sick turtles) immediately to Jean or Terry.
    Questions, comments, suggestions
    Please direct any questions, comments or suggestions re: this column to me at: flippers@att.net. This column is in the off-season schedule of publication of every other week. To be added to the newsletter list e-mail me at the same address: flippers@att.net. I’m working on the next edition, but there’s so much to talk about that it’s tough knowing what to include. And Jean continues to work on her “Director’s Message” for the issue. We humbly ask for your patience while we try to get it together. If your email address has recently changed please send me your new one so I can update my master list.
    Page 3 of 3 -  
    Karen Sota is the volunteer media coordinator for the Sea Turtle Hospital in Topsail Beach.
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