We drove through the Florida Keys a few years ago and I saw the Turtle Hospital. We didn’t have time to stop then but when we decided to go back, I made sure that we were going to have time to visit.
The Turtle Hospital opened in 1986. They rescue and rehabilitate injured sea turtles. They see over 100 turtles a year.
The main problems they see are:
- injuries from boat strikes, trash entanglement, or predator attacks
- tumors caused by fibropapilloma virus
- foreign material ingestions causing impaction
The grounds of the hospital is an old hotel. The rehab people stay in the rooms of the hotel. The turtles stay in an individual pool when they first come in. Eventually they are moved to group pools. Some are housed in the old swimming pool. This is a salt water pool that draws water directly from the ocean. Fish are even able to swim up the pipe and into the pool.
Most of the turtles they had when we visited were green sea turtles. They got the name because their fat is green from all the sea plants they eat. There were a few loggerheads and one Kemp Ridley’s turtle but they were too shy for pictures.
There are tours starting every hour. They last 90 minutes. You can make reservations. That would be a good idea if you know when you are going to be in the area. We were on a 3:00 pm tour on a Tuesday in October and it was busy.
The tour starts with a talk about the different types of sea turtles and the injuries and diseases that they see there. Then you see the small operating area. After that you walk out to the pools and discuss each of the turtles in the hospital.
There are also iguanas running around. They are an invasive species in the Keys so local people are not very excited about them like tourists are.
The Turtle Hospital is a nonprofit and relies on donations, tour admission fees, and gift shop purchases. I did my part by buying socks with turtles on them and a stuffed turtle.
The Turtle Hospital
Admission – Adults $18, children $9
Tours – Hourly from 9 AM to 4 PM