Friday, October 22, 2010

Saving sea turtles one by one - Loggerhead Marinelife Center, Juno Beach, Florida


Loggerhead Marinelife Center
14200 U.S. Highway One
Juno Beach, Florida 33408
Open Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. and
Sunday, 12-4 p.m.
561-627-8280

By Jane Feehan

What began three decades ago as one woman’s quest to learn about and protect sea turtles along the northern Palm Beach County coast has evolved into a cutting-edge research facility and veterinary hospital with an exhibit hall that draws visitors from around the globe.

Today, the Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach provides a temporary home to rescued sea turtles with injuries and disease or tiny hatchlings who have lost their way to the ocean after emerging from beach nests. One in a thousand lives to sexual maturity. With these odds it’s no surprise that green sea turtles and leatherback turtles are endangered species; loggerheads are in a threatened status.
On a recent visit I saw a recovering female loggerhead in one of the center’s tanks with gashes to its shell from boat propellers (see photo above). A much younger and smaller Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle – a species most often seen in Gulf of Mexico waters and also endangered – was rescued from the sea floor with fishing lines and a two pound weight wrapped around one of its flippers. Most of the flipper of another hapless creature was missing; it probably served as a small appetizer for a shark.
The travails of each turtle are posted at the tank in which they recover. Most of the patients are returned to the sea. About 200 rescued hatchlings were recently released several miles off the Florida coast. The center encourages any who find injured or stranded sea turtles to contact them.

According to the Loggerhead Marinelife Center, the northern Palm Beach County coast is one of the most active turtle nesting (May through October) beaches in the world. Hats off to the center for the work they do and the interest they generate in ocean conservation and sea life. This should top the list of things to see - and to support - in Florida. It’s a nonprofit organization that survives on donations and the help of committed, well-informed volunteers.

The Loggerhead Marinelife Center hosts events, field trips and a variety of children’s programs. There is no entrance fee but donations in any amount are suggested. The facility, which also has a wonderful aquarium with living coral and tropical fish (see photo), is currently expanding to include more exhibits. Picnic tables are available – some with an ocean view. Copyright © 2010. Jane Feehan. All rights reserved.

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