By Preston Rudie
The Florida Aquarium officially opened its $4.1 million Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Center in January in Apollo Beach. The two-story, 19,000 sq. ft. center features five different rehabilitation pools including one of the state’s deepest turtle-exclusive dive pool with observation window.
“We rescue sea turtles from around Florida and beyond, but during winter months, there is a growing need for more animal care facilities to rehabilitate cold stunned sea turtles,” said The Florida Aquarium President and CEO Roger Germann. “This center is opening at the right time, and The Florida Aquarium will be able to dramatically increase the number of sea turtles it cares for during the year.”
The pools at the new care center range in size from 1,500 to 25,000 gallons. The sea turtle dive pool, which reaches a depth of 11 ft., will be used to assess buoyancy issues, swim conditioning and food trials before turtles are cleared by FWC to be returned back into the wild.
The center also includes a state-of-the-art sea turtle surgery suite.
“We believe we have a responsibility to be good stewards of our environment and the animals that depend on it, and this investment will only help us further our mission of protecting and restoring our fragile blue planet,” Germann added.
The Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Center was made possible through a unique public-private partnership consisting of groups who all shared the same common goal of working to achieve and maintain healthy sea turtle populations. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) contributed $3 million, The Spurlino Foundation and others donated $690,000. The Florida Aquarium contributed more than $400,000 and TECO Energy helped make through a generous land use agreement.
“We are grateful to continue to expand our partnership with such a world class facility like The Florida Aquarium,” said FWC Executive Director Eric Sutton.
Since inception, the Florida Aquarium has helped rescue and rehab more than 150 threatened or endangered turtles.