Thursday, October 13, 2016

10/13 The Turtle Hospital, Marathon Key, FL

I had a rough time today trying to pick up a couple of items in the grocery store and getting to the turtle hospital in Marathon Key.  When I started out full-timing in my 32' motorhome, I chose not to tow a car behind me--mostly because of the extra cost and extra bother of having to hook and unhook in campgrounds. 
I have really had very little trouble parking to run errands and see sights, but the Keys are exceptions because there is so little extra space available because of their nature as islands.  In addition, there is almost no street parking.  I tried to rent a car, but Bahia Honda, where I am staying is about 12 miles from Marathon, where there is an Enterprise Car Rental, but it is just too far for them to pick me up.

So, off I went this morning to try to visit the turtle hospital and pick up a couple of things at the supermarket. I ended up driving through the supermarket and there was plenty of extra parking space, but it was spread out and nothing was big enough for my big rig.  Next stop was K-Mart, where thankfully there was much more free space.  Bonus was that it was next to McDonalds and I had not had breakfast, so I found a nice spot at the edge and got a sausage McMuffin with egg to go.  Always nice to eat in a parking lot in your own recliner!
Luckily, I always have my electric bike with me and my battery was fully charged and ready to go, so after breakfast, I rode the two miles down the highway--on the sidewalk, of course, because the traffic was horrendous!

The Turtle Hospital is a non-profit rescue facility located on the grounds of an old motel.  The site is obvious because the motel had two pools--one large saltwater pool and one smaller freshwater pool.  Check it out here: offer tours at least every hour.  First, was some education on the types of turtles and where they are kept in their facility.

This is the operating room in their hospital.

These posters show the process of rescuing turtles.  Mostly, they rescue turtles that have been injured by boats or have tumors growing on them. 
Most of the diseased turtles have Fibropapillomatosis, which is related to herpes.  The tumors are benign but often interfere with swimming and other functions, so they bring them in and operate to remove them. Once free of tumors, the turtles are kept for an entire year to make sure they do not grow back.  If they do grow back during the year, they get more surgery.
This is the building where the newest or sickest arrivals live in small pools.

Occasionally, turtles get enough damage to their shells that air gets in and creates buoyant chambers that deform the shape of the shells. This makes them float and be unable to dive for food, so they can never be released and eventually some go to aquariums and other permanent homes.  They are called "bubblebutts" for obvious reasons.  You can see how there is a bulge on the top of this guy's shell and a black thing near his tail.  That is a weight that has been glued or velcroed there to help him be more balanced so he can swim better.  It does not help him dive, which is the reason for never releasing such turtles.
Some of us watched this one swimming around towing this pipe structure around, thinking he was stuck underneath it.  It turns out that this particular turtles likes to scratch his shell on the pipes!  Yes, apparently, turtles can feel touch on their shells and sometimes they get itchy. He also has some weights on his shell.

Note the names on the shells?  Well, if you call in to report an injured turtle, you get to name him or her!  And since they cannot always tell the boys from the girls right away, sometimes the names do not match the genders.

We are headed down to the large saltwater pool.

Next to the big pool, there are some smaller pools.  This turtle REALLY has a big bubble on his shell.  And what is the white stuff?  Turned out to be zinc oxide to prevent sunburn! 

Lots of turtles here.

This turtle had surgery yesterday to remove tumors, so he/she is bandaged up, with a little creative artwork.

This is the big saltwater pool with about 15 turtles in it.  This water is not filtered because it gets refreshed via some pipes as the tide goes in and out each day.

I think this is a Hawksbill.  Isn't he gorgeous?

Here are some of the turtles in the big saltwater pool. It was a little harder to take photos because they were moving around a lot and the lighting was not so good.

 This one has a horrible bubble on one side, so he is really off-balance when swimming.
 And this turtle is missing a front flipper.
These are younger and smaller turtles, so they have their own part of the pool because the bigger guys do not play nicely.

Here are posters showing the main species of sea turtles.  Most of the ones in the Keys are Green turtles, although they do have a few others. 

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