Finally, the spotlight shines on our “California girl.” Born and raised in Folsom, (but not the prison, as she was quick to point out!) Hannah MacTaggart arrived a few weeks after our other interns, so we get to keep her with us a bit longer. It’s a long commute, but as she said: “This is what I wanted to do this summer. I wanted to make a difference, and sea turtles are my favorite animals.”
Hannah’s interest in sea turtles started at an early age when she began snorkeling with her dad. She was so fascinated with these critters that she signed up for an eighth grade science trip to Costa Rica that focused on the gentle giants of sea turtles, the leatherbacks. Her work there consisted of protecting nesting mamas and catching the eggs as they were being laid. After Mom left, the eggs were buried in a protected and monitored area to guard them from poachers.
Hannah’s previous experience was exclusively with nesting, but she quickly learned that working with sea turtles is much different once you move off the sand and into the rehab arena. It’s totally hands-on work, and when you spend every day with our patients, bathing and treating them, you naturally develop a connection. She’s especially fond of our big girl “October.” Hannah has a deep admiration for her: “She’s been through so much; she’s so tuned into your emotions that it seems she actually takes them on.” October is indeed an extraordinary turtle, and one day we’ll tell her story.
Hannah’s experience as a resident assistant at her college (Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo) has made for a seamless transition into hospital tour guide. She’s used to “touring people around and explaining things to them.” She loves relaying the stories of our patients and “seeing the looks of reality on the people’s faces when they finally understand why our turtles are here. People really care.” She breaks into a smile when little kids ask: “How did the turtle get the boo-boo?”
Hannah advises that anyone considering our internship would benefit by doing some general research into sea turtles beforehand “so that you have some insight.” Even though she followed her own advice before coming here she’s amazed at how much more she’s learned in a very short period of time.
Hannah returns to California as a rising junior, majoring in animal science with a minor in biology. She’s considering a vet tech program after she graduates and, hopefully, a career in animal conservation. “I’d love to stay involved with sea turtles, but I love all animals!”
When one of our patients is really ready to go, physically and “mentally,” we don’t like to hold off on sending them home. “Canady” is expected to be released in the near future. Watch our Facebook page (The Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue & Rehabilitation Center) for dates and times of any upcoming releases. Details are posted the day before.
It’s been a pretty slow nesting season with just about 50 and only a few weeks to go until the “official” end. But now through October we move into the “seriously cute” season as those little hatchlings emerge ready to take on their life at sea. Be sure to spend a few minutes with our volunteer manning the nesting display at our hospital to get a glimpse of what’s hiding below those staked off areas on our beaches. Our visitors are more likely than ever to have a close encounter of the sea turtle and Topsail Turtle Project volunteer kind as the summer progresses and those beach walks in the morning expand into nest sitting at night. We continue to rely heavily on our locals and visitors to report any sighting of nesting turtles, hatching nests and any turtles in 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.
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Karen Sota is the volunteer media coordinator for the Sea Turtle Hospital in Topsail Beach.