The Amazing Turtle Hospital in Florida

The Amazing Turtle Hospital in Florida

Who does not like sea turtles? These slow moving round shaped dudes are so adorable. Right in the middle of the Florida Keys there is a operating turtle hospital for the rescue, rehabilitation and release of sea turtles.



The Turtle Hospital on Marathon Key has its own turtle ambulances, surgery room, laboratory and intensive care! The complex used to be a beach front motel, now providing rooms for the (night shift) staff and natural pool facilities for the turtles.

The tour starts with an introduction video and presentation about different kinds of turtles and the problems mentioned before. You can see the overview of all patients and the stage they are in. Also you learn about the things you can do to prevent turtles to get sick, little things like reducing the number of plastic bags your use. Right after the introduction you get to see the surgery room and laboratory!

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Why are the turtles in the hospital?

The two main problems are the fibropapilloma virus and permanent floating. The fibropapilloma virus (FP) is a contaminating virus they get after being hit by a boat (propeller), being trapped / cut with fishing nets and eating plastic for example. When sick they are vulnerable for predators and other turtles so they are treated in separate tanks - like a tiny swimming pool. After the rescue and treatment they get all the time they need to recover before they will be released again, if possible.

Permanent floating comes from similar human actions, plastic trash in the ocean and boat hits where the shape of their shells is damaged and misshapen. Air bubbles are often trapped inside the shell/body giving upward pressure so the turtles can not dive down to rest or eat and are dis-balanced while swimming (roll-over).

When the turtles are in dis-balance due to air trapped inside (called Bubble-bud syndrome) the people from the hospital glue falcro to their shell and start experiencing with different sets of weights (lead). You can see the result in the pictures below. The white stuff on the back of the Bubble-bud turtles is to prevent sunburn, because they can not dive down. Often they are not fully released but moved to a zoo or aquarium where they get further care and more living space.


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Surgery room of the Turtle Hospital in Florida



This tour is created for all ages and suitable for anybody. It is very interesting to learn how they operate the hospital and rehabilitation programs. About half the tour the guide explained the rescue stories of all the individual turtles, about 50 turtles, which you can also adopt.

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Sea turtle rehabilitation area

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The Turtle Hospital as a non-profit organization

You can visit the education center and gift shop for free but if you want to see turtles you need to buy tickets for the scheduled guided tours. The tickets are $22 each. We were really surprised by the amount for visiting a hospital and talked to a few people who left without paying, simply because they thought the amount was absurd for a non-profit organization.

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We were with a group of about 20 people, an income of $440 in a little over one hour. There are 8 tours scheduled a day that start with a lot of paperwork and getting a wristband.

It was really interesting to see what they do with all the money and what kind of hospital needs are available and purchased for turtle care. For sure it is an educational way to spend your surface interval!

You can visit the Turtle Hospital website for more information, there is even a separate website for their gift shop.

Sea Turtles
James R. Spotila

A Complete Guide to Their Biology, Behavior, and Conservation



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Marlies
Dive o'clock "It's dive o'clock somewhere!"


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