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Marathon - Turtle Hospital

What happens when the sea turtles disappear?

While we had the rental car we visited the Marathon Turtle Hospital.
What an experience.

Sea turtles are a 'keystone species', which means they are vital to the balance of nature on this planet. Sea turtles' normal diet are jellyfish, sponge, squid and other natural marine organisms. Unfortunately, turtles can't tell the difference between a wad of monofilament fishing line and a jellyfish, and they sometimes think man-made plastic objects are sponges or squid. When a turtle ingests such objects their digestive tracts get impacted and the creature gets sick. An interesting aspect of nature is that a sick turtle can not dive below the surface. Sick turtles float until they get well on their own, or die from lack of food. While recovering on the surface many turtles are hit by propeller blades from passing ships or are baked by a relentless sun.

Let's get back to the 'keystone species' issue. There are seven species of sea turtles on earth. All are on the ENDANGERED list, except the loggerhead turtle; which is THREATENED. So what happens when the sea turtles disappear? Jellyfish will overrun the sea. Have you ever been around a mass of jellyfish? Sponges will overgrow and strangle the reefs. Reefs are vital to oxygen in our ocean waters. Those are just a couple of reasons we don't want to lose our magnificent sea turtles.

The Marathon Turtle Hospital is one of a kind in the world. World renowned reptile vetinarians volunteer at the hospital to assist in the recovery of sick turtles who are sent here from all over. Their motto is Rescue, Rehabilitate, Release.

Other facts about turtles:
- Sea Turtles have a map sense. They know where they are in the world and can navigate to anywhere they choose to go.
- Leatherback turtles grow to 2000 pounds and can dive to over 3000 feet to feed.
- Sea turtles can keep their body temperatures 30 degrees warmer than the water they are in, so some species are found in near the artic.

Biggest threats to sea turtles:
- Entanglements in fishing lines and lines from crab and lobster traps.
- Boat hits
- Oil contamination
- Shark attacks
- Garbage/debris ingestion
- Fish hook injuries - Fibropapilloma, which requires surgery to remove

If you are ever in the Florida Keys, Jill and I highly recommend a visit to the Turtle Hospital in Marathon. Meanwhile visit them on the web