Turtle hospital news - Focus remains on patient care


The loggerhead, Shellie, enjoys telling visitors to the hospital her story.

Submitted photo
Published: Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 03:12 PM.

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. 

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