By Karen Sota
Our regular staff always looks forward to a bit of a break during the summer when our college interns arrive for their twelve week program. This year has them hopping, not only with turtle care, nesting activity and tours every day but also working with the kids from Sea Turtle Camp, based in Wilmington. This concept of an immersive program to learn about sea turtles was the creation and collaboration of Jen Civelli, a long-time hospital volunteer and our founder Jean Beasley. Students work alongside and under the supervision of our interns to learn what it takes to care for, rehabilitate, and release one of these magnificent creatures back to the sea. Campers learn to know the turtles by name and begin to recognize the distinct species and personalities exhibited by each turtle. Lots of hands-on with our patients, but also some classroom type of work. And this year our interns have cooked up something pretty stimulating for their two days with us.
On the first day our interns use a plush turtle to introduce the stranding report. This intake form is completed by the
individual responding to the stranding and the information is often supplemented when the turtle arrives at our facility.
Information includes date and location of the strand, weight and measurements, species and any identifying tags or
markings. Injuries and the general condition of the turtle is also noted. Using calipers and other tools of the trade the
campers learn how to complete the form which becomes a permanent part of the patient’s file. A copy is forwarded to North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission for aggregate date collection on North Carolina sea turtle activity.
On day two the students are informed that we have received a call reporting a turtle stranding, and they are all going along for the recovery! They are loaded into our hospital van with the typical recovery items (tank, towels) and driven to…the front of our building. But wait, there is a stranded turtle out there. They need to get to him quickly because one, he’s all tangled up in fishing gear and may have swallowed a balloon, and two, it’s intern Michael in our furry mascot suit and he really does need rescuing. Like now.
Students rush over to this poor critter, gently untangling him and hoisting him onto one of the transport carts we use at the hospital. The victim is wheeled into the hospital where the students complete the stranding report, noting all the required information. It looks like this turtle is basically in good shape and thankfully hasn’t been out in the sun too long. Last step is releasing turtle Michael (from his turtle suit) back into the wilds of our hospital. Pretty creative and engaging way to have kids learn about the rescue part of our work.
We’re well into what just might be a great nesting season with 67 at this writing and almost two months to go. If you
spot a nesting mama, or anything unusual such as an injured or stranded turtle please call our Director of Beach
Operations, Terry Meyer at: 910-470-2880. If she is not available, you may call the hospital during operating hours: 910-
329-0222 . We will take the information and we will send a trained volunteer to meet you to assess the situation. The State
of NC hotline for stranded, sick, and injured turtles is 252-241-7367. The state number picks up 24/7. Please note that all
our work with sea turtles, at the hospital and on the beach, is authorized by the NC Wildlife Resources Commission, ES
Our public tour schedule through the month of July is Mon – Fri, Noon-4; Saturday,10-2, and Sunday Noon-2. Tickets MUST be purchased in advance through the Visit page on our website. Select the date, time and the number of guests in your party and purchase your tickets. We limit the number of guests for each time to make the experience more enjoyable. Sorry, but we are not able to accommodate walk-ups for tours once we sell out for the day. Please keep in mind that summer traffic can be very heavy, especially on the weekends so plan your arrival accordingly. If you are coming only to our gift shop (not for a tour) you can enter through the single door to the left of the main entrance.