The facility, located across from the Zoo Miami Animal Hospital, will eventually be accessible to the public through specially arranged tours
Zoo Miami opened a new sea turtle hospital on July 6, 2022, with funding from the Zoo Miami Foundation -- a non-profit organization. According to the organizational release,1 the Sea Turtle Hospital is 1600 sq. ft with 5 saltwater enclosures that will serve as “recovery beds” for the turtles. The facility can hold up to 16 sea turtle patients and is now the second Sea Turtle Hospital in Miami-Dade County.
According to the release, this hospital is the only sea turtle hospital in Miami-Dade County that can treat fibropapillomatosis (FP), a potentially fatal disease found in sea turtles that causes cauliflower-like tumors to grow on the skin, including the eyes and mouth, as well as internal organs.1
In a local NBC Miami news video,2 Maria Nardi, director of Miami Dade County Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department (PROS), stated, “Sea turtles are important, and they are kind of like a litmus test for the health of the oceans. This dedication is really a milestone for making sure that they continue to thrive.”
Prior to its opening and after receiving its permits from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) back in April, the Sea Turtle Hospital already has received patients for emergency treatments. One of these patients was a 388-pound female loggerhead turtle named “Baymax,” that arrived from a Port St. Lucie site several weeks ago. The sea turtle had suffered a critical injury from an apparent shark attack. She also arrived laden with eggs, which she was induced to lay and were then placed in a man-made nest for incubation by a team from the Miami-Dade County Sea Turtle Conservation Program (STCP). The turtle required surgery to amputate what remained of her badly mangled front left flipper and has since been recovering well. According to the release, the Zoo Miami team is optimistic that she will be able to be released within the next few weeks.
“[Sea] turtles are amazing creatures, they do quite well against their natural predators, for the most part. It’s human threats that are really the biggest thing, that is our hope to be able to mitigate those human threats as well,” said Rosemary Lucas, manager of the Sea Turtle Hospital, in an interview with NBC Miami.2
All 5 species of sea turtles found in Florida waters are classified as threatened or endangered. According to Zoo Miami, a sea turtle’s greatest threats are pollution such as plastics and balloons that the turtles ingest which leads to digestive blockages and starvation, improperly discarded fishing nets and lines that they get tangled up in, boat strikes, cold stress, threats to their nesting beaches and the fibropapillomatosis virus (FP).1
From the NBC Miami video, Zoo Miami director, Will Elgar, stated, “Zoo Miami’s wildlife conservation work is so important. We have to think globally, and act locally.”2
Zoo Miami hopes its Sea Turtle Hospital will play an invaluable role in providing veterinary care to sea turtles affected by these threats with the goal of full rehabilitation and subsequent release back to the wild.