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Image: sea turtle swimming

Saving Endangered Lives in the First Sea Turtle Hospital

This article was originally published February 13, 2019.

“When dinosaurs were roaming the planet, sea turtles were in our oceans as they are today. It’s another reason we work so hard to save them, because something that has survived our planet for 200 million years, we really don’t want to go extinct on our watch.”

Bette Zirkelbach, Manager of The Turtle Hospital

At this point, you’ve probably heard that sea turtles are struggling. After millions of years doing just fine, they are now being directly impacted by our presence on the earth—from plastic bits in the ocean and boat collisions, chemical pollution, the warming of the ocean, and fishing practices—and all this is leading to countless losses from disease, injury, and accidents. Six out of the seven species of sea turtles worldwide are considered endangered or threatened 1.

Fortunately, there are amazing people doing fascinating, inspiring work to save the injured turtles that come their way and we can support them in different ways from afar!

Image: sea turtle swimming
Source: Pixabay

In a renovated motel in the Florida Keys, The Turtle Hospital is working to rehabilitate and release as many sea turtles as they can.

They’ve been at it for over 30 years! So to take a look at the important work they’ve been doing to help sea turtles through their various debilitations, we turn to this beautiful film from The Atlantic.

(Even seeing these creatures on film is amazing. Imagine being tasked with saving their lives?)

Via: The Atlantic 2

How badly do you want to give a turtle a backscratch right now?

So, why should we care?

“Something that starts affecting such a resilient animal is like the canary in a coal mine; what is affecting them is essentially affecting all of life.”
— Bette Zirkelbach, Manager of The Turtle Hospital

If a species is struggling —especially a species that was able to survive the same catastrophe that killed the dinosaurs—we should probably pay attention. This story reminds us that we humans don’t live in a bubble.

But all is not lost. There are small, rather easy actions that we can all integrate into our lives to make sure that we aren’t making it worse for them out there. Just take a look at the following articles for a few great ideas:

What if We Saw the Oceans as Climate Innovators Instead of Climate Victims?

What if we stopped looking at the ocean as a victim of climate change, and instead realize that it holds dozens of ready-made climate solutions? The ocean is full of untapped potential to help us solve the climate crisis, we just have to reframe our thinking. Here’s how.

Read Article Watch Video Listen to Podcast
Removing 90% of the Ocean’s Plastic in the Next 20 Years is Possible

Just a few months ago in October of 2021, The Ocean Cleanup Project reached a revolutionary milestone with their newest System 002 model: proof of technology. With this massive achievement, the nonprofit is projected to clean 90% of the ocean’s plastic waste in the next 20 years.

Read Article Watch Video Listen to Podcast
A Brain in Each Leg? Follow Your Curiosity to the Bottom of the Ocean with Nathan Robinson (Episode #120)

Having filmed bioluminescent shrimp 4,700 feet beneath the sea and studied light as the world’s potentially most common communication method in the world, Dr. Nathan Robinson’s deep sea discoveries lead the world in exploring the depths of our ocean and changing the way we see this largely unexplored landscape. He spots opportunities for wonder everywhere, and celebrates them with a sense of awe that is infectious. Taking us to the most extraordinary realms on our planet, Nathan’s work and enthusiasm have the power to move mountains… and it may already have.

Read Article Watch Video Listen to Podcast

Meet some of the sea turtles being helped!

So, The Turtle Hospital is really awesome and has wonderful pages on their website with photos of the turtles that have come through their doors. You can see their current patients, past patients, and permanent residents! And if you click on the picture, you can read about what brought them in there. (I really suggest doing this if you want to meet a bunch of great turtles today.) I’ve particularly enjoyed reading about Mami Gal, Rebel, Timmy, and I mean, just LOOK at Smalls waving in her last photo.

Oh, and you can “adopt” any of their permanent residents to support their care!

If you want to know how you can help sea turtles and reduce the risks of hurting them, The Turtle Hospital has put together a great, easy guide to get you started. Click here to see it!

There’s so much more to learn!

Okay, so at this point, you probably want to know more about the sea turtles themselves. (Don’t blame you—they’re the coolest.)

Well, one place you can look is this episode of the podcast, Ologies. It gives us a different perspective on how cool sea turtles are! We get to hear a Cheloniologist (sea turtle expert) geek out about why they love sea turtles, how they got into working to protect them, and a bunch of fun facts about these amazing creatures!

All in all, it’s pretty flippin’ awesome.

**They do discuss the sea turtles genitalia and swear once and a while, so with that information, I trust you’ll decide if this is appropriate for you to listen to or not. (I hope it is! It’s an awesome episode.)

Via: Ologies with Alie Ward 3

Here’s the link to that tortoise episode she’s talking about in the beginning (it’s so worth your time): https://bit.ly/2t4YmlT

If you’d like to listen to even more episodes of Ologies, you can find them wherever you stream your podcasts! Or, simply head over to their website.

And if you’re wondering how turtles managed to look the way they do, you’re going to want to see this.

One of our favorite channels, PBS Eons, has put together a great look into turtle evolution. How did they get their shell? And why? See what you think about this hot debate:

Via: PBS Eons 4

What an amazing feat of evolution! It’s kind of crazy to think that sea turtles have been through so much that their bodies built a shell around them. But even a shell can’t protect them from forces that nature had no idea was coming. (Looking at you, boats. And you too, chemicals.)

But the thing is, there are amazing people out in this world like those who run The Turtle Hospital working to make it better for them.

Here are those links about how you can help sea turtles again!

The Turtle Hospital directly: https://bit.ly/2DJZFwk

In your daily life: https://bit.ly/2Sf4FBd

A little bit can do a lot. Imagine if everyone reading this sentence picked one thing in either of those pages that were just linked, and integrated it into their life. What could life look like for sea turtles in a few years?

Stay open to new possibilities!

  • Sam

“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”—Albert Einstein 

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  1. https://www.seeturtles.org/sea-turtles-threats/
  2. “The Sea Turtle Hospital.” Vimeo, The Atlantic, 5 May 2016, vimeo.com/165487612. Accessed 30 Jan. 2019.
  3. Ward, Alie. “Cheloniology (SEA TURTLES) with Camryn Allen.” ART19, Ologies, 29 Jan. 2019, art19.com/shows/ologies-fb/episodes/19b2b127-b5d3-4da0-9fc2-57bf4b378592. Accessed 30 Jan. 2019.
  4. “How the Turtle Got Its Shell.” YouTube, PBS Eons, 12 Mar. 2018, www.youtube.com/watch?v=fLjXIFvafSE. Accessed 30 Jan. 2019.
Image: Samantha Burns

Sam Burns

Former Editor-In-Chief

Sam wrote and edited hundreds of articles during her time on the Goodness Exchange team from 2016-2021. She wrote about topics from the wonders of nature to the organizations changing the world and the simple joys in life! Outside of the Goodness Exchange, she’s a part-time printmaker, collector of knick-knacks, and procurer of cheeses.

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