Elle and I have been to Jekyll Island twice before this trip with Matt and both times we spent a significant portion of our day at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center. The GSTC is essentially a hospital for sick or injured sea turtles of all kinds: green sea turtles, loggerheads, leatherbacks, hawksbills, and Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles.
They even care for and rehabilitate diamondback terrapins, softshells, river cooters, gopher tortoises, box turtles, and a variety of birds. The day the three of us visited, we were lucky enough to see the veterinarian treating a juvenile green heron. This, of course, after watching the vet staff clean, tube feed, and medicate a small sea turtle. The adults were just as fascinated as the children, I think because no matter one’s age, it is hard to see the impact of human carelessness sometimes.
The GSTC is set up with a museum-type atmosphere in the front portion of the building, allowing children and their chaperones to be extremely hands-on. Here is where we learned about the threats facing all sea turtles, an animal that really doesn’t have it easy to begin with.
Did you know that only 75% of all sea turtle eggs will hatch? Did you know that only 1 in roughly 4,000 sea turtles will survive to adulthood? Predators like crabs and birds nab hatchlings quickly, preventing the majority of babies from even making it to the semi-safety of the ocean (wherein lies a whole different fight for survival). Sadly, some of the hatchlings become confused as to which direction they should go. Sea turtles fresh from the nest rely on the moon and starlight over the ocean to determine their path and are easily misdirected by the porchlights from nearby homes and headlights on adjacent highways.
The second section of the GSTC is the rehabilitation room itself. This is a pretty cool place, full of sea turtle patients of every kind and all of them having been admitted for all kinds of reason. Some were found floating and listless, others were discovered with tumors that weighed them down and prevented them from surfacing for air. This guy, named Test, was brought in with so much filament line wrapped around his front flipper that it had to be amputated to the bone.