Sea Turtle Hospital

Tater Tot

Released May 2018, River to Sea Preserve

Tater Tot is a juvenile green sea turtle that stranded on Vilano Beach on January 20, 2018. This little turtle was cold upon arrival and needed to be slowly warmed back up. He/she also had small fibropapillomatosis tumors. Fortunately we were able to get this animal healthy quickly and after a couple of minor tumor removal surgeries, he/she returned home.

Sea Turtle Hospital

Gene Johnson

Released August 2018, River to Sea Preserve

Gene Johnson is a juvenile green sea turtle found floating and lethargic in the creek along Gene Johnson Road, just north of Whitney Laboratory in Summer Haven on June 7, 2018. Locally, Gene Johnson was a successful, African-American businessman who owned a restaurant in Summer Haven from 1936 until the 1970s. It is said that he was a very funny and charismatic man. His namesake, Gene Johnson the turtle, is just the same! Gene Johnson the turtle arrived at the hospital thin, anemic (covered in marine leeches), and with a few FP tumors. Gene had a very speedy recovery, and only needed one tumor removal surgery.

Sea Turtle Hospital

Seafoam

Released August 2018, River to Sea Preserve

Seafoam is a juvenile green sea turtle found stranded on Marineland Beach on February 23, 2018. The turtle was thin and covered with epibiota (organisms that live on turtles), including many marine leeches. Seafoam was very anemic, which was caused by the many leeches. Seafoam’s compromised immune system also meant that abscesses or infection had formed on the carapace (top shell). Seafoam also had fibropapillomatosis. Luckily, Seafoam had a very mild tumor load, and we were able to remove all of the tumors in one surgery. After months of healing, Seafoam (who was named by our fans on Facebook) returned home.

Sea Turtle Hospital

Tater Tot

Released May 2018, River to Sea Preserve

Tater Tot is a juvenile green sea turtle that stranded on Vilano Beach on January 20, 2018. This little turtle was cold upon arrival and needed to be slowly warmed back up. He/she also had small fibropapillomatosis tumors. Fortunately we were able to get this animal healthy quickly and after a couple of minor tumor removal surgeries, he/she returned home.

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

5

Sea Turtles Released in 2017

47

Treated, Injured or Ill Turtles in 2017

24

Sea Turtle Hospital Volunteers in 2017


WANT TO GET INVOLVED?

 

 

Donate

Donate

Give a gift to support the Sea Turtle Hospital

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Stay in Touch

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Learn More
Volunteer

Volunteer

Fill out an application to join our volunteer waiting list.

Visit our Volunteer Page

Contact Us

Meet Our Team: Sea Turtle Hospital Staff

More Information: Catherine Eastman, Sea Turtle Program Coordinator
904-461-4028 or cbeastman@whitney.ufl.edu

Donation Information: Jessica Long, Director of Development
904-461-4018 or jessicalong@whitney.ufl.edu

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


IN THE NEWS

University of Florida News

University of Florida News

The Sea Turtle Hospital at Whitney Lab and a patient released from the hospital, Cisco Kid.

Read the Article
Nat Geo Wild

Nat Geo Wild

Nat Geo Wild was there to film the release of Sebod on September 21, 2016

Nat Geo Wild Site
First Coast News

First Coast News

Researching turtle tumors in Flagler could help human medicine

Watch the Video
First Coast News

Pelican Post Magazine

Featured in the Fall 2017 Issue.

Read the Article

Sea Turtle Grants Program

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