Turtle hospital news: Volunteers provide needed service with a smile

Turtle hospital

UNCG students help the Sea Turtles Hospitals with turtle care and spring cleaning as part of the university’s Office of Leadership and Service Learning Program.

Submitted photo
Published: Friday, January 24, 2014 at 02:12 PM.

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

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. 

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