| Many sea turtles caught by poachers or opportune fisherman sadly become injured due to mistreatment or carelessness. The live animals are tossed around like pieces of meat and suffer cracks of the shell or plastron as a result. Soft tissue damage and fungal or bone infections are not uncommon. Turtles are handled roughly and held in such a way that they flap their flippers so violently from the disorientation and stress that they injure themselves, resulting in cuts and bleeding on the flippers.
Cold stunning resulting from placement of the animal in ice-packed water or sudden placement in cold water tanks is another major danger. Sea turtles are highly sensitive to quick changes in temperature – pulse rates slowing to as low as three beats per minute compared to the norm of 30 beats per minute. Turtles will be lethargic sometimes appearing close to death. Swift action is required to reinstate a proper environment to prevent death.
Poor diets of bread or cookies or even watermelon – turtles are fed anything that will merely keep them alive before they are sold – result in malnutrition. Sea turtles need a high protein diet consisting of shrimp, squid, or fish to maintain proper health and weight.
Once the sea turtles come under our care, they are kept in large net enclosures out in the open sea, surrounded by wooden planks for easy access and observation. This environment allows for natural sea water circulation – as opposed to man-made salt water mixtures - which is indispensable in the healing process. There they are monitored and observed, given a high protein diet and antibiotics and IV fluids as required.
Once the animals are regenerated and deemed healthy enough to survive in the open water they are released.