While in sunny Boca Raton, Florida last weekend I filled an afternoon watching and learning about the many species of sea turtles temporarily living at the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center. Functioning as a rescue for injured sea turtles, the environmental complex is home to recovering leatherback, loggerhead, green, hawksbill, and Kemp’s Ridley turtles, along with an assortment of fish, eels, lobsters, and other marine wildlife.
With a spotlight on the turtles, it’s evident that the staff and volunteers at the nature center are dedicated to helping the reptiles recover so they can be returned to the ocean. The majority of the turtles that heal at the center are brought in sick or injured, and, unfortunately, many of the reasons are human-related, including pollution and boating accidents.
One such wondrous creature is Five-Oh, a juvenile loggerhead who was hit by a boat propeller, resulting in a cracked shell and a broken flipper. Thanks to the caring staff at Gumbo Limbo, he’s healing quickly and is expected to return home to the wild this upcoming fall.
You can see the crack in Five-Oh’s shell in the image above.
Of course, nature happens too. Bruce the 40.7-pound Kemp’s Ridley was bitten on the front right flipper by a shark. According to his chart, he’s just about ready to splash on home with his strong and healthy flippers. Turtlespeed, Bruce!
Bruce is almost ready to go back home!
Something that was sad to watch but understandable, since it’s beneficial for the center’s reptilian inhabitants, is that the turtles are fed their natural diets. For the loggerheads (and some others), this means live crab. I got to watch as a staff member held a wiggling and snipping crustacean above Peanut’s pool, and she knew what was coming. As soon as the crab hit the water, the chase was on. Unfortunately for the crab, there was no way out, and for Peanut, it was the exciting point of the day known as lunchtime.
Sea turtles aren’t slowpokes. They can swim up to 15 MPH, especially when there’s prey to catch.
It sure was a treat to see large and small sea turtles of all kinds up close, knowing they were receiving proper care, and that each one had plans to return back to the natural waters they once swam through daily. As a beacon for environmental education, research, and conservation, Gumbo Limbo’s 20 acres of protected barrier island not only provides refuge to many varieties of plants and animals — some rare or endangered — but represents a commitment to protect our planet’s natural resources.
Founded in 1984, Gumbo Limbo Nature Center is a cooperative project of the City of Boca Raton, Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District, Florida Atlantic University, and Friends of Gumbo Limbo. Each year, more than 190,000 local and tourist visitors receive valuable environmental education while enjoying respite from the city bustle.
For more turtle power, visit gumbolimbo.org.