With yet another intern hailing from the Gainesville area we suspect that there must be a big sign in Florida advertising our summer internship program. Not that we’re complaining, especially when this southern gal has had experience with a very special critter at the Florida Aquarium. “Flip,” a large Green sea turtle in permanent residence because of a flipper problem stole Annmarie Fearing’s heart when she was charged with feeding him. Aquarium animals are normally target trained and quickly learn that when they see a particular stimulus it means the dinner bell is ringing. Obviously we do not target train our patients since our goal is to send them home ASAP. They nevertheless quickly associate the appearance of our smiling faces as a sure sign that food is on the way, so maybe we are unsuspecting targets after all!
Annmarie had planned to apply for our internship last summer, but when circumstances didn’t cooperate she was determined not to let the opportunity slip away for a second year. A more intimate environment and a chance to work closely with our all-volunteer staff were definitely the big selling points for her. Funny then that her first reaction when arriving was “it’s big!” And big means a lot more work, but work that’s “never boring.” Even though we are always in the background we expect our interns to work closely together and to be organized and mature enough to learn all aspects of the hospital. Under our supervision we pretty much allow them to run the building for the three months they’re with us. Annmarie sees this as “an excellent opportunity to develop and grow my leadership skills.”
Everybody has a favorite turtle, and for Annmarie it’s one of our big ladies, “October.” October arrived with unspeakable physical and emotional trauma and still resides in our ICU. After many months she remains an enigma, and one of the most sensitive turtles we have ever had. She is acutely aware of her surroundings and can recognize when the “vibe” in the room has changed. Everyone who works with her is awestruck by this magnificent creature, and Annmarie is no exception.
Annmarie enjoys her part in our tours and likes talking to our visitors, relaying all the “cool facts” that she’s accumulating during her time here. She particularly enjoys telling the story of “Alpha” because not only are our guests interested in Alpha, but Annmarie swears that the turtle looks and acts like she’s trying to tell her story right alongside her.
Annmarie is thrilled be with us because she “sees things that most people never see.” She does counsel that participation in our program demands a real passion because “it’s hard, really hard work.” Once the day is done she loves hanging out with the other interns and enjoys scuba diving and kayaking. She may even attempt to learn to surf before returning as a rising senior to the University of Florida where she’ll complete her B.S. in zoology. She’s hoping to further her education in marine biology at UNCG, so just maybe we’ll be seeing her around in the not-too-distant future.
Fishing for the hook
Our ace turtle vet, Dr. Craig Harms, returned for a visit last week to check on a few of our patients and to perform surgery on little Kemp’s “Lore.” Lore has been under observation in our ICU after a battle with a rather large fishing hook. After shooting an updated set of radiographs Lore was moved into our new surgical suite and anesthetized. There Dr. Harms and his team began the process of locating and hopefully removing the hook. After meticulously and gently searching for almost an hour the hook remained elusive. Exactly where it is, how it got there and where it might eventually go may never be known. Lore was slowly brought back from her sweet turtle dreams and constantly tended to for the next several hours to ensure an uneventful recovery. Her throat will be sore for a few days, but the extra attention from our staff will surely make up for a few missed bowls of squid. Please remember that stainless steel hooks have a very long life, even in salt water, and especially inside of a sea turtle. If possible buy the old style metal hooks that quickly disintegrate and pose less of a danger to all sea creatures.
July is generally the month when the gals really get serious about their egg-laying, so visitors are more likely to have close encounters of the sea turtle kind. Although our Topsail Turtle Project volunteers are out with the sunrise through the end of August we also rely heavily on our locals and visitors to report any sighting of nesting turtles, as well as any turtles in any kind of distress. Please report all local sea turtle activity to our Director of Beach Operations Terry Meyer at: 910-470-2880. If unable to reach her you may also contact Director Jean Beasley at: 910-470-2800. The state of N.C. also has a hotline for strandings (injured or sick turtles): 252-241-7367 and the call will be picked up 24/7.
Hospital visiting hours
We are open daily except Wednesday and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m.. General admission is $5; seniors and military are $4; and children are $3. We are located at 302 Tortuga Lane on the mainland in Surf City. Take the turn from N.C. 50/210 onto Charlie Medlin Drive (Shipwreck Point Mini Golf is your landmark for this road.) Follow the road onto the gravel section and through the round-about. We are the only building on Tortuga. We moved from Topsail Beach last fall, so please do not go to the old location looking for us — many people have made that trek, most likely out of habit. Visit our website (seaturtlehospital.org) and/or our Facebook page (The Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue & Rehabilitation Center) for updates on patients and other turtle happenings.
Questions, comments, suggestions?
Please direct any questions, comments or suggestions re: this column to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. This column will resume its weekly schedule this month. To be added to the newsletter list e-mail me at the same address: email@example.com. Next edition is almost ready.
Karen Sota is the volunteer media coordinator for the Sea Turtle Hospital in Topsail Beach.