On Jan. 25 we opened our hospital doors to fire, police, rescue and the staffs and elected officials (and members of their families) from the towns of Holly Ridge, Topsail Beach, North Topsail Beach and Surf City. We were pleased when over 200 of them came by to meet our turtles and volunteers. It was our chance to show our appreciation for the support they have given us during the years that we were on the island and all through the construction of our new facility.
Our focus remains the care and rehab of our patients, but in our spare time we’ve been “decorating” our grand hall and meeting room. The first stop for guests, after a cruise down the hall past our cases of fossilized bones and a simulated turtle nest is our classroom. There, long-time hospital volunteer Sandy Sly shared general sea turtle knowledge and hospital lore. We might not have a million stories, but with over 400 successful rehabilitations we have more than enough information to impart to even the most inquisitive crowd.
Heading back up the hall visitors stopped for long periods of time at the viewing windows, enthralled by the activity taking place in our ICU, aka Sea Turtle Sick Bay. The work was in full-swing with our new crew of UNCW interns cleaning tanks, making salt water and bathing and treating our cold-stuns and other ailing patients. These turtles remain in isolation for 60 days after they are admitted, and with this crazy “polar vortex” hanging around you can bet we’re wall-to-wall with critters thawing out their frozen flippers.
Our therapy pool is in the same room, and a large number of our patients got to take advantage of the pool due to our extended day. Under the watchful eyes of our wet-suited volunteer, Joe, turtles of all sizes were rotated into the warm currents for time to stretch their flippers and build muscle. Some of them were real hams and made a show of playing to the crowd, zipping around and displaying their acrobatic skills.
Once past the viewing windows our visitors entered Sea Turtle Bay where our volunteers were stationed at each tank. The room is an awe-inspiring space, and from the elevated observation deck there isn’t a bad “seat” in the house. Almost every one of our 30-plus patients is visible, and they all seemed to know just how important the day’s guests were. Normally the afternoon is their nap time, but our critters appeared to be making a special effort to remain active and smile until well after our last visitor left the area.
Exiting Sea Turtle Bay visitors browsed our gift shop. Many visited Sea Turtle Adoption Central to adopt one of our patients. We’re well-stocked with clothing, accessories and all kinds of gift items, and it came as no surprise that our warm, fleecy hoodies were the big sellers on that bone-chilling Saturday!
We love showing off our facility, and we love talking about our turtles. It’s rare that we have the time to speak at length with each visitor, and we hope they enjoyed their time with us.
Public tours on hold
Public tours are on hold until further notice. Visit our Facebook page (The Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue & Rehabilitation Center) for possible opportunities for public tours over the next few months.
The cold continues
We keep getting the calls, so we keep adding tanks. Our ICU is filling up fast with chilled-to-the-bone patients. 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: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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: email@example.com. 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 e-mail address has recently changed please send me your new one so I can update my master list.
Karen Sota is the volunteer media coordinator for the Sea Turtle Hospital in Topsail Beach.