As the weather and the water get warmer, we know that those lovely lady Loggerheads are making their way toward our beaches, looking for the perfect location to start their family. But back at the ranch (hospital), we have a whole crew of rehabilitated patients focused on going in the other direction, to freedom in the open ocean. Most of them have increased their activity over the past month, doing a lot of swimming with their noses pointed toward the beach. Lola has been working her flippers so hard she’s actually worn the finish off of her tank near the waterline! But before they get their ticket to ride, they have to pass their upcoming pre-release physical. Sometimes we (and the turtle) get surprised when the blood work comes back not quite up to snuff, and their departure is delayed while we correct the deficiency. It doesn’t make for a happy turtle, but after spending months, and even years rehabilitating them, we’re not taking any chances.
Meanwhile, our resident Kemp’s, “Ambassador Lennie” is reviewing the list of patients definitely remaining in rehabilitation who have expressed an interest in being part of the tour during our summer open house. Lennie has been in the tour guide business for years, so he knows exactly what qualities he wants in his deputy ambassadors: a friendly face, a great story, a fascination with people (as many as 600 new faces a day) and stamina. Whoever he selects must be able to smile, smile and smile for a minimum of two hours a day, often longer. Can’t wait to see who Lennie decides has made the cut.
Our summer interns (both college and junior) start drifting in this month as they complete their classes for the semester. We have one returning intern who has actually been spending part of his summers with us almost since he was a hatchling. Our college crew commits to a full twelve weeks, five and one-half days/week, plus being on-call for turtle emergencies. The work is hot and hard, and you never know what the day will bring. Many of our “graduates” have found their experience at our hospital so rewarding that they have gone on to full-time employment working with sea turtles in some capacity. And it’s a good thing help is on the way, because we recently admitted four turtles and our “busy season” hasn’t even started yet.
Speaking of busy, our Topsail Turtle Project “beach walkers” are on patrol daily looking for signs of nesting, and we generally start seeing our first nests around mid-May. We love that our residents and visitors are so engaged in helping our turtles, and are always on the lookout for any nesting and (unfortunately) stranding activity. The person to call to report any kind of activity, including harassment, is Terry Meyer, our Director of Beach Operations, at: 910-470-2880. Please: don’t dig holes and leave them unattended while on the beach and/or when you leave for the day. We’ve had many incidents of people and turtles falling into holes and becoming injured or trapped. I’ll have a refresher course on the “hole story” in a few weeks – every town on the island has laws books regarding the digging of holes.
Hospital opens to the public June 4
Yes – we’re going to throw open our doors and invite you all in for a look at our patients and our work beginning June 4 and running through the end of August (possibly a bit later.) We will be open daily (except Wednesday and Sunday) from 2 to 4 p.m., weather permitting. The lines can be long so come wearing sunscreen and bring an umbrella if you’re not used to our sunny Carolina skies. This will be our last summer in our current location (behind the water tower in Topsail Beach.)
A slippery situation
There are a lot of questions and concerns about what’s going to happen to our turtles with the massive oil disaster in the Gulf. Right now, it’s a waiting game for us here along the coast. The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (specifically sea turtle biologists Matthew Godfrey and Wendy Cluse) are taking the lead. We are on alert for whatever and whenever something comes our way. We may need your help in transport and/or care. If we do, we’ll broadcast that call fast and loud.
Contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or comments. For an application to become a hospital volunteer or to be added to our future e-newsletter, contact me at: email@example.com.
Karen Sota is the volunteer media coordinator for the Sea Turtle Hospital in Topsail Beach.