All seven species of sea turtles are listed as threatened or endangered. This is a reflection of the growing issues surrounding coastal development and ocean conservation. To help ensure that sea turtles have a future in our oceans, the South Carolina Aquarium Sea Turtle Care Center™ aids sick and injured sea turtles in partnership with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR).
Due to the dedication of staff, volunteers and supportive donors, we were able to expand the Sea Turtle Hospital and shed light on the awe-inspiring process of rescue, rehabilitation and release. Both a hospital and a guest experience, Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery™ allows every guest who visits the Aquarium to experience the journey home.
For 17 years, a committed team of staff and volunteers have been operating behind-the-scenes in our Sea Turtle Hospital, a space which only supports a limited number of sea turtle patients. While the majority of the hospital’s functions have moved to first-floor Recovery, the original hospital will continue to function as an intensive care unit for critical patients.
Rescue. Rehabilitation. Release.
When a sea turtle is found stranded or injured, SCDNR brings the animal to the Sea Turtle Care Center for treatment. Sea turtles arrive most commonly suffering from debilitated turtle syndrome, shock from being exposed to cold temperatures, or injury from a boat strike or shark bite. Our staff veterinarians diagnose each turtle and work with Care Center staff and volunteers to provide treatments and rehabilitative care. Patients are given IV fluids, antibiotics, vitamins and other medications. Based on the sea turtle’s condition, a variety of procedures may be performed, such as x-rays or ultrasounds. Rehabilitated sea turtles are released home in hopes that they will become reproductive members of the sea turtle population.
A Closer Look at Sea Turtle Recovery
When you walk through Sea Turtle Recovery you’ll experience five main galleries: The Rescue Gallery, The John and Susan Neely Rehabilitation Gallery, The Steve and Emily Swanson Rehabilitation Hospital, The Fran and Dennis Nolan Education Center and The Release Gallery. These galleries contain:
- Upgraded Tanks
- Improved Medical Facility
- Interactive Mock Medical Stations
- Classroom and Object Theater
McNair Center for Sea Turtle Conservation and Research
With Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery™, we’ve done everything to ensure that we provide the best care for sea turtles while they’re at the Aquarium, but we know their journey doesn’t end here. That’s why we’ve also committed ourselves to protecting sea turtles worldwide through the work of the McNair Center for Sea Turtle Conservation and Research.
The new McNair Center will serve as the Aquarium’s in-house research facility especially for sea turtle knowledge. We’ll take what we’ve learned from 16 years of patient injuries and illnesses, and present it to the scientific community so that researchers all over the world can benefit.
Dr. Shane Boylan
Turtle Teams Making a Difference
Under management by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources Marine Turtle Conservation Program, more than 20 turtle teams, composed of volunteers, identify and protect sea turtle nests. To report a stranded sea turtle, please call the SCDNR Hotline: (800) 922-5431
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Where can I find out about a public release?
A. Public sea turtle releases are often announced on the aquarium’s website and social media webpages. Permit regulations call for the Sea Turtle Care Center to release a patient within two weeks of receiving medical clearance from a veterinarian. Therefore, they are often planned quickly and announced only a few days beforehand. Public releases are most often held in the summer months at local county parks.
Q. Can we take a tour into the sea turtle hospital?
A. The aquarium does not offer tours due to the opening of Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery! This experience brings the daily operations of the hospital up to the first floor and is open to all aquarium guests at no additional cost. In Sea Turtle Recovery, visitors can test their skills at triaging a new patient with an augmented reality station, peer into the medical center surgery room and come face to face with our patients.
Q. How can I donate?
A. The Sea Turtle Care Center has an Amazon wish list where staff place items for direct donation to the Care Center. You can access this page here.
Another way to donate is to become an adoptive parent of a loggerhead sea turtle! You can access the information for this program here.
Q. Does the Sea Turtle Care Center offer college internships?
A. Yes! The Sea Turtle Care Center usually offers 10 internship positions annually. We ask interns to dedicate 40 hours a week for 4 months. There are three internship terms a year: spring, summer and fall. You can find more information here.
Q. What do I do if I find a sick or injured sea turtle?
A. Please contact the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) at 1-800-922-5431. That is their stranding hotline for sick, injured or dead sea turtles.