Sea Turtle Hospital

Mars

Released January 2020, River to Sea Preserve

Mars was a critical case during her stay here. She stranded in downtown St. Augustine debilitated, emaciated and heavily covered in epibiota, along with small fibropapilloma (FP) tumors. Our veterinarian found a bacterial infection affecting a large portion of her carapace (shell) and the top of her head. While handling her recovery from the infection her FP tumors were continuing to grow, so it was very important to start removing those tumors in numerous small surgeries. After 10 months and four tumor removal surgeries, she was deemed tumor free and released.

Sea Turtle Hospital

Autumn and Dumbo

Released October 2019, River to Sea Preserve

Autumn and Dumbo were two quick rehab cases. Autumn came to us after stranding in Huguenot Memorial Park. We believe she was exhausted after evading a predator, evidenced by the teeth marks found on her carapace and rear flippers. After less than a month she was ready to go back out into the ocean. Dumbo came to us after a fisherman caught him on hook and line. Our veterinarian performed an emergency surgery to remove the hook from his esophagus. He also had tumors on his eyelid and flipper, but they were small and easily removed with one surgery.

Sea Turtle Hospital

Mantis

Released July 2019, Wilbur-by-the-Sea

Mantis was recovered on the beach of Ponce Inlet. She was transferred to us from Volusia Marine Science Center for treatment of her fibropapilloma tumors. She had small tumors on her left eye and around each of her flippers. Mantis received one surgery to remove all of her tumors and clean out the material found inside a mantis shrimp wound. She had always been enthusiastic about her seafood and greens and did very well with all of the food-based enrichment she received during her behavioral observations.

Sea Turtle Hospital

Mars

Released January 2020, River to Sea Preserve

Mars was a critical case during her stay here. She stranded in downtown St. Augustine debilitated, emaciated and heavily covered in epibiota, along with small fibropapilloma (FP) tumors. Our veterinarian found a bacterial infection affecting a large portion of her carapace (shell) and the top of her head. While handling her recovery from the infection her FP tumors were continuing to grow, so it was very important to start removing those tumors in numerous small surgeries. After 10 months and four tumor removal surgeries, she was deemed tumor free and released.

Sea Turtle Hospital

THE SEA TURTLE HOSPITAL AT WHITNEY LABORATORY

The Sea Turtle Hospital opened in October 2015 to provide rehabilitation, education and research for sea turtle conservation in Northeast Florida. The hospital rehabilitates debilitated and injured sea turtles, and, once healthy and cleared by the veterinarian, releases them back to their habitat. In its first year (October 2015-October 2016), the hospital rehabilitated and released 10 sea turtles.


If you see a turtle on the beach or struggling in the surf, please call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at 1-888-404-3922.

Why do we need one?

Injured and sick endangered sea turtles come ashore in Florida’s waters throughout the year. Before the Sea Turtle Hospital at Whitney Lab opened, sea turtles that were stranded in the Nassau, Duval, St. Johns and Flagler county areas that make up Northeast Florida had to be transported to facilities in Georgia or central Florida, and often spent hours in transit – time that was critical to the survival of the sick or injured sea turtle.

Not only did the influx of these turtles cramp the space available to turtles washing in from the regions where the rehab facilities exist, but none of the surrounding hospitals were permitted to take turtles with the Fibropapilloma (FP) virus – the most significant infectious disease among sea turtles in our waters. Now that the Sea Turtle Hospital at Whitney Lab is open, the team cares for injured or sick sea turtles with Fibropapilloma found throughout Northeast Florida.


The 3 cornerstones of the Sea Turtle Hospital at Whitney Lab:

 

REHAB

REHAB

Sea turtles wash onto Florida’s beaches for a variety of reasons including but not limited to: boat strike, cold-stunning (reptiles often can’t tolerate extreme cold), swallowed fish bait and hook, exhaustion from interaction with commercial fishing gear, sick with tumors relating to FP syndrome, and other illnesses.

The rehabilitation component of the program provides excellent medical treatment to rehabilitate debilitated and injured sea turtles. Once healthy and cleared by Whitney’s veterinarian, the turtles are released back to their habitat and in some cases, affixed with a satellite transmitter that enables scientists to further monitor their post-rehab habits. 

The two most common sea turtle species that strand in Northeast Florida include the Loggerhead and Green sea turtles.

RESEARCH

Research is an important component of the Sea Turtle Hospital at Whitney Lab. By engaging researchers/scientists in various areas of expertise, we plan to further the quest for understanding the Fibropapilloma virus. FP is an opportunistic virus that flourishes in sea turtles with weakened immune systems, and can inhibit normal behavior such as feeding and breeding. FP has been reported in growing numbers around the world but has particular prevalence in our local sea turtle population. Scientists and citizens alike have seen sea turtles with this disease in local waters and feel that a multi-disciplinary, scientific and community-based approach to action is needed.

The Sea Turtle Hospital at Whitney Lab is equipped to house and study turtles with FP. While under our care, scientists have the opportunity to learn from turtles that have presented with signs of FP (lesions on soft tissues, etc.) in hopes of advancing the understanding of the FP virus, its life-cycle, transmission and effect on marine animal health.

Additional research interests include the role climate change plays in disease expansion, comparative immunological and microbial studies, investigations into local ocean chemical changes and human influence, and collaborative efforts with Universities in the Caribbean and around the world. By understanding the etiology of marine diseases, it is hopeful that we can help direct conservation efforts related to overall ecosystem health.

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EDUCATION

EDUCATION

Community outreach and education is a key initiative of the Sea Turtle Hospital at Whitney Lab. Educational programs for school groups and the general public provide an overview of the research and rehabilitation work happening at the Sea Turtle Hospital at Whitney Lab.

We are connected to the community through multiple forms of media, website, social media and videos. By collaborating with other “brick and mortar” museums and education centers, our plan is to broaden our reach to the community.

School Programs

Community Programs

9

Sea Turtles Released in 2019

49

Treated Injured or Ill Turtles in 2019

359

Treated Hatchlings and Post-Hatchlings in 2019


WANT TO GET INVOLVED?

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Volunteer

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Fill out an application to join our volunteer waiting list.

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Contact Us

Meet Our Team: Sea Turtle Hospital Staff

More Information: Catherine Eastman, Sea Turtle Program Coordinator
904-201-8414 or cbeastman@whitney.ufl.edu

Donation Information: Jessica Long, Senior Director of Advancement
904-201-8408 or jessicalong@whitney.ufl.edu

Media Inquiries: We welcome media inquiries, please use the contact info here.


Sea Turtle Grants Program

Thank you for helping establish our Surgery Suite and its continued support of the hospital’s programs and projects.