Do Turtles Need a Hospital?

Turtle hospital turtleWe’re in Marathon, FL, in the Middle Keys. Beautiful weather and good beaches but we needed something cultural so we headed to the Turtle Hospital for a tour. The Turtle Hospital was open on Christmas Day and they had a huge crowd, even at 10 am.

A sea turtle’s life in South Florida is not easy. It has to contend with collision with boats, eating fishing lines and fish hooks and contracting viruses. Sometimes the turtle encounters a shark, a natural event, but no matter what the cause of the turtle’s distress, the folks at the hospital rescue and rehabilitate turtles.

They created a hospital and rehab center for sea turtles. When they get a call about a turtle in trouble, they go out with their own EMS vehicles to get the turtle–I didn’t ask about the red light and siren. They bring them in to the OR, perform surgeries, clean and watch over them and even offer physical therapy for turtles. They even took a turtle to the “people hospital” for an MRI. Of course, this is completely free health care; they don’t charge the turtles anything or expect them to have health insurance or a co-pay.

The hospital has released about 1,400 turtles back to sea but not all turtles can be released. If the animal is deemed to not be able to live at sea, they are kept in a large pond permanently. Sea turtles can live up to a 100 years so they can be at the hospital for decades. Again, even without Social Security and Medicare, the turtles live a carefree life of swimming and eating. Not a bad deal!

Turtle hospital iguanaOutside, in the middle of this facility, iguanas lounged in the sun. Our guide emphasized that iguanas were invasives but no matter. Visitors were fascinated by them–real nature right on the pavement. They were free to go where they wanted and thumbed their nose at the system.

The facility is funded by admission fees and gift store purchases and donations. It tugs at the heart of visitors and they seem to be doing well.


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