Founder Richie Moretti recruited a veterinarian to complement his existing turtle education program, and the idea for the Turtle Hospital was hatched. The facility even has three turtle ambulances for patient transport.
Moretti’s skilled staff and a group of capable volunteers treat injured sea turtles and, when possible, return them to the wild. If release isn’t feasible, the creatures become permanent residents of the facility and many times are transferred to “forever homes” at aquariums around the United States and in England.
As well as rehabilitating sick and injured turtles, the hospital’s mission is to educate the public through outreach programs with local schools, conduct and assist with research that aids sea turtles in conjunction with state universities, and work toward environmental legislation that makes beaches and water safe and clean for sea turtles.
Prominent people including former President Jimmy Carter and former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist have assisted in the release of the hospital’s rehabilitated patients back into the wild.
Visitors can take guided educational tours of the Turtle Hospital facilities and sea turtle rehabilitation area. During the experience, they discover how the unique center opened and how patients are treated, and learn about sea turtles and why they are endangered. A description of the turtles — hawksbill, leatherback, green, loggerhead and Kemps Ridley — is followed by a question-and-answer period.
Visitors also view the preparation room where turtles needing care are cleaned, weighed, photographed and measured, and learn how blood tests can help determine the relative health of a turtle. The tour continues outdoors, where patients and resident turtles in holding pens are fed shrimp, squid and food pellets each afternoon.
Visit turtlehospital.org or call 305-743-2552 for tour times and admission fees.
Florida Keys visitor information: fla-keys.com or 1-800-FLA-KEYS
Marathon visitor information: fla-keys.com/marathon or 1-800-262-7284
Social: Facebook.com/floridakeysandkeywest • Twitter.com/thefloridakeys • Instagram.com/thefloridakeys • Youtube.com/FloridaKeysTV • Keys Voices blog