Sea Turtle Care Center Manager Willow Melamet was beaming. The team at the South Carolina Aquarium had just completed major surgery on an adult female sea turtle – and aquarium visitors were watching live. It was all thanks to the brand-new Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery area of the aquarium.
Sea Turtle Recovery walks visitors along the path of a rescued sea turtle as it moves through treatment and rehabilitation and ultimately to release back into the ocean. Visitors can watch a live surgery through a glass window and on a TV monitor.
The first such surgery happened a few days after the Sea Turtle Recovery’s official opening and the aquarium was filled with visitors. They crowded in to watch as a large piece of filament fishing line was removed from the GI tract of Peach, an adult female Kemp’s ridley – a rare and critically endangered species.
Melamet was thrilled to watch the faces of children during that surgery. “It was a pretty cool moment,” she said.
That kind of up close education and hands-on experience is what makes the Sea Turtle Recovery such an important part of the aquarium’s mission raising awareness about the plight of the sea turtle. Fishing nets, fishing lines and plastics are some of the most serious threats to sea turtles.
Showing visitors the impact and letting them know about the dangers of sea turtles eating plastic bags or fishing lines can be eye-opening. Part of Sea Turtle Recovery reinforces how visitors can make a difference in the lives of sea turtles.
Interactive stations explain causes of sea turtle strandings and let visitors practice diagnosing a mock patient. Tablets next to each patient’s tank share that turtle’s story with guests and detail its progress. A classroom and theater provide a glimpse into what happens before and after a turtle’s time in recovery.
Also, new to the overall Sea Turtle Care Center is the McNair Center, the aquarium’s in-house research facility. The aquarium will take information gleaned from 16 years of treating turtle injuries and illnesses, and present it to the scientific community so that researchers all over the world can benefit.
Plan Your Visit:
South Carolina Aquarium, 100 Aquarium Wharf in Charleston
Tickets: $29.95 ages 13+ / $22.95 ages 3-12
Open daily 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Share your photos from your visit to the Sea Turtle Recovery on social media with #ProtectWhatYouLove.