Our visitors often tell us how lucky we are to be able to work at the hospital with these magnificent animals – and they’re right. It has always been a privilege to be able to physically lay hands on them, feed and treat them, love them and be in awe at the eons of wisdom evident in those incredible eyes. And there’s no better feeling in the world of sea turtle rehab than the one you get as you watch them zip through the waves on their way back home.
But it can also be the hardest job in the world.
We have a remarkable track record of incredible success over our twenty-plus years. We learn something from every patient, and we never give up on a turtle that is continuing to fight to live no matter how many hours, days or years we have to stand by their side through their journey. It’s hard to watch a struggle that can go on and on. But when they finally turn the corner there is no sweeter day at our hospital.
But sometimes they don’t make it, and they make that decision themselves. And sometimes we have to make it for them. It hurts in either case but in the end it comes down to what is best for the turtle.
Some of our hospital staff along with our turtle vet Dr. Harms transported “Snooki,” to the aquarium in Charleston, South Carolina. They are the closest facility with a CTSCAN large enough to accommodate a turtle weighing over 300 pounds. Dr. Harms felt that this was the next step in trying to figure out why Snooki was just not able to dive and stay under the water. These scans were another step in the diagnostic procedure and they provided important information, including some problems with her lungs which was no surprise. There’s additional information that will need to be investigated to add to Snooki’s diagnosis.
Now that we know more about what we are dealing with Dr. Harms, Jean and some of the best minds in veterinary care will begin a deep dive into what we can or cannot do for this turtle that we all love. She’s a very important lady; a survivor and mother of who knows how many little critters over her years of plying the ocean. Whatever the next step is you can be sure that it will not be made without much thought and heart. It will be a decision that is the best one for Snooki.
We’re still on our summer tour schedule, open daily (except Wednesdays and Sundays) from noon – 4 p.m. for the next few weeks. We will not be open for tours on Saturday, Sept. 1 and Monday, Sept. 3 in observance of Labor Day. Beginning the week of Sept. 16 we move to our fall schedule/hours of two days a week when we open only on Thursdays and Saturdays from 1 - 4 p.m.. Attendance averages between 800 and 1,000 visitors a day so lines can be long at times. Bring umbrellas for shade and lots of water to stay hydrated. The tour takes about 30-40 minutes once inside the doors so plan your schedule accordingly.
Karen Sota is the volunteer media coordinator for the Sea Turtle Hospital in Topsail Beach.