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  • Hedda Jarhall

Local organization rescues, rehabilitates endangered sea turtles

Updated: Nov 4, 2022

A sea turtle getting rehabilitated in the hospital at Gumbo Limbo Environmental Complex. (Photo courtesy: Gumbo Limbo Nature Center)

Sea turtles have been an endangered species for nearly 50 years in South Florida. Currently, an estimated 10% of sea turtles along the U.S. east coast survive.

“It is heartbreaking to me that turtles and other animals suffer from such diseases which we believe are related to environmental cofactors,” Whitney Crowder, the sea turtle rehabilitation coordinator for Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, said.

Sea turtles can be injured from boats, fishing gear and pollution. They are also commonly slaughtered for their skin and shells.

Gumbo Limbo aims to rescue, rehabilitate, release and participate in research to help the endangered sea turtles along South Florida’s east coast.

Whenever an emergency regarding the health of sea turtles is reported, Gumbo Limbo’s rehabilitation team members respond and send out someone from the stranding team, who then takes care of the sea turtle.

Sea turtles are taken care of in the Environmental Complex, which is part of Gumbo Limbo’s organization. They are given hospitality, which includes the removal of hooks and other things the sea turtles are stuck in, as well as medication.

Crowder manages all of Gumbo Limbo’s rehabilitation operations. She also determines operations, including patient care, medical procedures and surgeries.

Crowder said that the efforts include everything from in-water rescues, stabilization of new patients through triage, treating them with medications and nutrition, surgeries and releasing them to their natural environment.

According to Oceana, an international organization that focuses on helping and saving species in the ocean, sea turtles help maintain coral reefs, as well as transport nutrients from the oceans to the coastal dunes.

Crowder pointed out that everyone in society should make some profound changes when it comes to the environment to save sea turtles and other species.

According to the Sea Turtle Conservancy, a nonprofit organization that does research and conservation initiatives about sea turtles across the globe, an extinction of sea turtles would increase the erosion of coral reefs and other vitalities in the ocean.

One thing someone can do to save sea turtles is to engage in clean-ups at the beach. Beaches without trash saves sea turtles habitat and protects them from injuries.

“When I participated in a coastal clean-up, I was shocked over how much trash people throw after themselves,” Madison Lane, a 19-year-old surfer and ocean cleaner, said.

Crowder said that if we do not do anything to rescue and save sea turtles, the future generations will not experience the beautiful ocean with sea turtles in it.

“The future that our children will have depends on the preservation we are doing right now,” Crowder said.

For this reason, Gumbo Limbo’s Nature Center is having public sea turtles releases and hammock happenings, which is their program guide.

During October, baby sea turtle hatchlings are emerging from nets to make their way to the ocean. The Nature Center is, therefore, having sea turtle talk which allows visitors to meet current sea turtle patients and learn about their stories.

Gumbo Limbo are also having an outdoor marine aquarium feeding of sea turtles where visitors can learn about sea turtles and other ocean species' habitats and how they can help maintain them.

By Hedda Jarhall

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