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 protect sea turtle populations, 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).
Rescue, Rehab and Release
Here at the South Carolina Aquarium, animal care is more than a job — it’s a calling to help ensure sea turtles have a future in our oceans. When a sea turtle is found stranded or injured, SCDNR brings the animal to the Sea Turtle Care Center for treatment. Sea turtles arrive at the Care Center suffering from a variety of ailments, including debilitated turtle syndrome, predation and boat strike wounds, injuries from accidental interactions with fishing gear and even exposure to dangerously low temperatures. 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, CT scans or ultrasounds. Rehabilitated sea turtles are released home in hopes that they will become reproductive members of the sea turtle population.
Research and Conserve
We know our patients’ journey doesn’t end with us. That’s why we’ve committed ourselves to protecting sea turtles worldwide through the work of the McNair Center for Sea Turtle Conservation and Research. The McNair Center serves as the Aquarium’s in-house research facility specializing in sea turtle knowledge. For the benefit of researchers, and sea turtles, all over the world, we share what we’ve learned from 21 years of patient injuries and illnesses and present it to the scientific community. Sea turtles have been on this planet for 110 million years, and we want to help ensure they’re here for 110 million more.
Educate and Inspire
We strive to teach adults and kids alike how to conserve sea turtles. Both a hospital and a guest experience, Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery™ makes the real-life rehabilitation of sick and injured sea turtles visible to every guest who visits the Aquarium. Interactive stations enable guests to learn the causes of sea turtle stranding and to practice diagnosing a mock patient. Tablets next to the patient tanks share each sea turtle patient’s unique story, so guests can follow along through the patients’ recovery. A window into the surgical suite and CT room gives guests an inside view at medical procedures and diagnostic methods. By bringing the day-to-day operations of the Sea Turtle Care Center into full view, we hope to inspire lifelong protectors of our world’s incredible sea turtle species.
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. 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 are often announced only hours beforehand for the safety of the animals, the public and our staff. 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 help?
A. Become a Sea Turtle Guardian! Join a community of passionate advocates for sea turtle conservation, all while supporting the critical hospital operations of the Sea Turtle Care Center™. Sea Turtle Guardians gain access to exclusive content and communications from our Care Center staff through email, social media and even Zoom video calls! Additional ways to help include purchasing an item from the Aquarium’s Amazon Wish List, where staff place items for direct donation to the Care Center, or adopting a loggerhead sea turtle!
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 four months. There are three internship terms a year: spring, summer and fall. You can find more information here.
Q. Who helps protect and identify sea turtle nests in South Carolina?
A. Turtle Teams up and down the coast, from Hilton Head to Folly Beach and beyond, help make a difference by monitoring and safeguarding turtle nesting sites on our state’s beaches.
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.