Good news

August 31, 2006

The storm was really nothing at all – we have worse thunderstorms on any given day in the summer! That’s good because it means no damage and no loss of power so we are back to normal here today.

Joy has been ignoring a lobster in her tank for weeks now even though we stopped feeding her “easy” food. Finally today we chased the lobster around the tank which seemed to stimulate Joy to go after it. Once she got a hold of it, the lobster did not stand a chance. Joy ate aggressively which is a good indicator that her weak jaw problems seem to have resolved. Some final blood tests, a check up by the vet, some flipper tags and she will probably be out of here in the next couple of weeks.

The time for Joy’s rehab was longer than most of the turtles we get – about 9 months. But that was not unexpected. The last turtle we had with a similar condition to Joy was Vito (a 200 pound adult male loggerhead). In his case we had to surgically place a feeding tube in his neck because we could not open his paralyzed jaw to feed him (well, that and it is not easy to haul a 200 pounder out of the tank and put a tube down his throat several times a week!) We used that tube to feed Vito the same highly nutritious pet food that Miracle is getting. Eventually he regained the use of his jaw and was released just over 9 months after we got him.

Vito with his esophagostomy (feeding tube in his esophagus)



Fiona’s farewell

August 29, 2006

In advance of Ernesto we decided to release Fiona today. It was a certainly an understated affair with staff, volunteers and a few passers-by at the event. Certainly not the hoopla that she would have deserved if it was not an “emergency” release. Heaven knows she had a lot of fans and we would have liked to throw her a nice going away party. It was instead a fairly quiet send off into the surf. She took a while to crawl the short distance to the water (we could not have carried her a step further – 160 lbs.) but once she got into swimming depth she powered offshore fairly quickly. Bet she’s gonna miss the salad bar!

Thanks to the volunteers that were able to come in and get the place cleaned up for the storm – and we know the rest of you were there in spirit! Turns out Ernesto looks like he is going to be more bark than bite – but after the last 2 hurricane seasons that is a relief! We should be back in business on Thursday if we have power at the center and the park is open.

A couple of parting shots of Fiona:



Hurricane prep

August 28, 2006

Oh, it’s that time of year again.  With the possibility of Ernesto bearing down on us we will be preparing here tomorrow (Tuesday) morning.  That means securing all loose equipment around the yard and building, covering computers to keep them dry and making sure the gift shop items are kept dry as well.

For storms like this we dry-dock the turtles (put them inside in bins).  They are safer there than they would be in a tank with the potential of flying debris.  The exception in this case may be Fiona.  While we are not ready quite yet to part with her, at her size dry-docking places a tremendous stress on her system.  She will likely be released here at the beach sometime tomorrow.  Gotta go take some more photos before she goes 🙂

To follow the storm predictions, you can look here:

National Hurricane Center 

Complaint to the management

August 25, 2006

Dear Management,

I, Miracle, would like to file an official complaint regarding the “Turtle Taco”. Being wrapped in a towel, placed in a bucket, put on public display, and having cat food (of all things) force fed to me is not very dignified for “So Excellent a Fishe”.***


Dear Miracle,

We don’t like it any more than you do. But we would like you to have every chance to recover and go back to the “Big Blue”. We do it because we care. Sorry about the cat food bit. It is special pet food designed to provide the most nutrition possible.

***”So Excellent a Fishe; A Natural History of Sea Turtles” by Archie Carr is an excellent read for anyone interested in sea turtles. Dr. Archie Carr was a pioneer in the field of sea turtle research and his books are always a fun mixture of science and a lyrical love for all things natural. The book is currently out of print but used copies can be found rather cheaply on the internet or through used book stores. Definitely worth tracking down.

Okay, who wants to see hatchlings?

August 23, 2006

Those of us who are lucky enough to be here this time of year get to see literally thousands of them. Leatherbacks rarely, but loggerheads and greens – well the place is just crawling with them! So here are some pics for those of you far away. Each year it is always a surprise to see how tiny they are when they start out life. And they have such a long way to go until they reach maturity – if they make it. The most recent estimates are that 1 in 3000 – 5000 make it to maturity. Which is why the adults that have made it to reproductive age are so important to sea turtle populations.

Without further ado, we give you hatchlings!

The Kiddie Pool


Green (left) and loggerhead


Two loggerheads – the color variation is normal


Smile and say “loggerhead!”


This is from last year – leatherbacks are in constant motion which
is why we release them the day we get them.


How lucky is Fiona?

August 22, 2006

We have had several reminders in the past few weeks of how lucky Fiona is to be alive. One of our more unpleasant duties here is to document dead turtles when they wash in. We consider it unpleasant because none of us like to see dead turtles. Yesterday we had just such a call from Singer Island. It turned out to be a large adult female loggerhead that had been hit by a boat propeller.



This is the second adult female loggerhead hit by a boat that we have had in the past two weeks. Of the ten dead turtles that we have documented locally this year, 6 of them have been boat strikes. Which brings me back to Fiona. If those prop strikes had just been a little deeper, she likely would have drowned due to a punctured lung. She’s one lucky turtle.

For those of you who are interested in learning more about sea turtle anatomy, the book by Dr. Jeanette Wyneken, The Anatomy of Sea Turtles, is available online. You can download individual chapters or the entire book by clicking here. It’s the reference we use here at the center for any anatomy questions.

Miracle update

August 21, 2006

Well, Miracle is still hanging in there. At this point, nutrition is an issue because the turtle is not eating at all. We have placed food directly in the mouth hoping it will decide to eat. This technique has been used to encourage other turtles to eat – Thud and Helmut come to mind. But Miracle is not having any of it and spits the food back out.

Last Friday we did tube feed Miracle in an attempt to provide some nutrition. We feed a mixture of prescription pet food and water through a tube we insert down the esophagus. It appears to have gone well and so we will likely start tubing this turtle 2 or 3 times a week until it begins to eat on its own.

Miracle – thanks to Chris Johnson for the photo.