Turtle Rescuers

On any given day, the emergency 24-hour sea turtle rescue phone at Sea Turtle, Inc. will likely ring, often more than once. The turtle rescue center, founded in 1977, treats 3-400 injured turtles per year at their state-of-the-art hospital and also serves as an educational center and turtle nest conservator.

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Five of the world’s eight species of sea turtle live in an around South Padre Island, and they’re all endangered, facing threats such as viruses, habitat destruction, and rising temperatures and sea levels.

About 200,000 visitors per year travel to the center on South Padre Island, which has an education area, outdoor amphitheater, small museum, coral reef aquarium, and large turtle tanks for permanent rescues that are unable to be released back into the wild. Visitors can meet Gerry the Atlantic Green turtle, who resides in the largest tank, complete with windows to greet people. And there’s Allison, also an Atlantic Green who lost a flipper to a predator attack in 2005. She was fitted with the world’s first sea turtle prosthetic fin, allowing her to swim correctly in her tank.

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Executive Director Jeff George said the center provides great educational lessons to visitors from different parts of the country who may have never seen a sea turtle up close.

“Part of our educational program is to make sure people are aware that they do have an impact, even if they live far away from the coast in Iowa,” he said.

Sea Turtle Inc., generally gets funding from its visitor base and gift shop sales, and is currently funding conservation projects in Mexico, Sri Lanka, and Greece. George is happy to report that the five species in the western hemisphere are starting to recover, but Pacific species numbers are declining due to harmful fishing practices, meaning there is still much work to be completed.

“Sea turtles are very charismatic and an icon of the ocean. They are prehistoric and are very important to our seas,” said George. “These are globe trotting animals that must be protected.”

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About the Author

About the Author: Pat Barcas serves as Creative Resources Manager for RTX, based in Asheville, NC. You can find him hiking the mountains of Asheville, gardening, traveling, and hanging with his growing family. His favorite RTX exchange destinations are Rangeley, Maine, Lake Tahoe, Banff, Canada, New Smyrna Beach, Florida, Cape Cod, and Orange Beach, Alabama. .

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