A Trip to Jekyll Island: Saving Sea Turtles, Finding Crush

“Oh, it’s awesome, Jellyman. The little dudes are just eggs, we leave ’em on a beach to hatch, and then, coo-coo-cachoo, they find their way back to the big ol’ blue.” That’s Crush from Finding Nemo.

The Georgia Sea Turtle Center

This week I seized an opportunity to check out how the Crush’s of the world are faring at the start of the 2017 sea turtle nesting season by visiting Georgia’s Jekyll Island.  My wife and I arrived on the island just as triathletes and runners were wrapping up the Turtle Crawl, a weekend of triathlons, 5K and 10K races.  This USA Triathlon sanctioned event benefits the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, one of our first stops.

The Georgia Sea Turtle Center will celebrate its 10th anniversary this June.  Its primary goals are to rehabilitate, research and educate.  The center’s facility itself takes center stage as a tool in educating the public about the habitat and preservation of sea turtles.  The center also conducts ongoing sea turtle research, and their on-site sea turtle hospital actively treats and rehabilitates ill and injured sea turtles.

 

Surgical room

Rehabilitation tanks

The Sea Turtle Hospital is an active hospital and rehabilitation center that will treat ill or injured sea turtles and rehabilitate them until they can be released back into the ocean. Should release not be possible, the center will place the sea turtle with a sanctuary or zoo for the sea turtle to live out the rest of its life comfortably.

During our visit the hospital was rehabilitating one young turtle name Popsicle, which had been found with fishing line wrapped around its right flipper.  Multiple attempts at saving the flipper failed and it had to be amputated.  Several other sea turtles under the hospital’s care were ill with GI tract impactions, anemia and other ailments.

 

Found on Flagler Beach in Florida, Calli is being treated for a GI impaction

Sea Turtle Patrol prepping a nest on Driftwood Beach

If one rises with the sun each morning of nesting season on Jekyll Island, as well as the other islands along Georgia’s Gold Coast, you may well spot a sea turtle patrol.  These patrols cover every beach on the islands to locate where sea turtles may have nested during the night. When a nest is located, the patrol constructs fencing barriers to protect the nest from predators.

It is still early in the 2017 nesting season, so I don’t feel bad for not having spotted a sea turtle in nesting action, or even the signs of one having nested.  However, it’s great to know that while I focus my time on other forms of environmental and personnel protection, there are many people and organizations working every day to protect the lives and habitat of the world’s threatened and endangered sea turtles.