Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Turtle Rehab

As a dedicated raptor rehab volunteer, I was excited to visit the Georgia Sea Turtle Center today. Their visitor center explores the lives of sea turtles, and the dangers they face. Only one raptor in four will survive to its first birthday. But only one in 4,000 sea turtle hatchlings will survive to adulthood. Loggerheads, for example, don't reach sexual maturity until they are 30 years old. A large window and remote camera let visitors actually observe the medical treatments for some turtles, and a volunteer explains what's going on. We watched the vet techs work with an injured pelican. And I think a Turkey Vulture can bite!
Then it was time to feed the rehab turtles, and we went to the rehab tank building. I never thought about the ways sea turtles can be injured, other then fish hooks and boat propellers. Griffin, a loggerhead turtle, is a "floater" and seems to have suffered a stroke. He can't remember how to dive down, and since sea turtles find their food on the ocean bottom, this is a real problem. As part of the physical therapy process they velcro weights to his shell, to encourage him to dive. Diving requires expelling air from the lungs, and he doesn't remember how to do this. He now can put both front flippers before his face, so he's making progress. When it's time to feed, the handlers put his food in giant tweezers, and drag it along the bottom of the tank. He knows he has to go down to eat and works hard at it. His tank is pretty small, and they hope to get him improved so he can be transferred to a larger facility, for further treatment and release.
Other turtles are admitted with a condition called "cold water stunning." (I think that's what they called it.) Sea turtles are reptiles, and cold blooded. If they are in the north feeding, at Cape Cod for example, and the water temperature drops before they can leave the area, their system starts to shut down. They have to be slowly returned to the proper water temperature. We have checked into the Jekyll Island Club Hotel now, and the NAI conference sessions will begin in the morning. This hotel was built by millionaires in the late 1800's, and is full of old time ambiance. I almost expect to see Christopher Reeve in a 1910 suit from Somewhere in Time. At the least, I think someone will ask me to leave because I am dressed in jeans and boots, instead of a proper long gown and bustle! But the sunset was wonderful, and the stars are shining. I can't remember the last time I saw so many stars at once.

1 comment:

Mary Howell Cromer said...

What a great place, great things happening for these turtles and more. We have visited a similar place near Boca Raton, wonderful efforts. Take care~