The Turtle Hospital at Marathon Key, Florida

It was high on my to-do list, to understand how rescued turtles are treated and returned to the wild when possible. At this turtle hospital, the veterinarians have a full surgery suite, research area, and patient recovery system that is very impressive. Previous to being a hospital, the building was a motel. Each of the rooms and swimming pool have been turned into recuperation staging areas. Most of the ailments have to do with power boats digging holes into the top of the turtle’s shells with their propellors and intestinal bloating problems due to consuming plastics, hooks, and other garbage from the sea. For the skid marks left on the shells, the doctors use antibiotics and epoxy to keep the shell from further infection. The shell is a living thing made out of the same material as our finger nails (cartilage), therefore, total replacement is not possible since the shell should continue to grow as the turtle ages. Turtles which are unable to make a full recovery become permanent residents of this hospital or sent to other facilities as teaching ambassadors. The intestinal bloating problem is sometimes so bad, surgery has to be done, otherwise, Beano and laxative treatments can help with more moderate problems. The way the docs know a bloating problem? The turtles are called, Bubble Butts, because the whole shell is stretched and raised in a non-conforming way, bubbling over the lower part of the shell. The air affects the buoyancy so much that the turtle cannot dive for food and starves to death. A terrible problem to see. The lucky turtles brought to the hospital via emergency calls and ambulance transport very often recover. The Keys’ area is a spawning ground and nursery for turtles, so the hospital is well situated geographically to provide aid. Releasing a turtle back to the wild is a cause for great celebration and the public and all those involved with the rescue, treatment and release are invited. http://www.turtlehospital.org

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  • Turtle Hospital

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    Turtle Hospital on Marathon Key, Florida

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