By Preston Rudie

The Florida Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Rehab, which opened early in 2019 in Apollo Beach, has been busy doing what it was designed for: rehabilitating turtles from around the state and even nationally, then releasing them when they are healthy enough. The Aquarium received three critically endangered loggerhead sea turtles in December 2019.

The turtles were found stranded on Cape Cod after being severely affected by the coldwater temperatures in New England, experiencing what is called a ‘cold-stun.’ The turtles were transported to the New England Aquarium’s sea turtle hospital for triage, and then they were transported by private jet to Tampa.

The Florida Aquarium’s Animal Response Team, supported by Florida Blue, picked up the sea turtles from the airport and transported them to the Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Center in Apollo Beach. The sea turtles will remain at the Center until they are fully rehabilitated and will hopefully be returned to the sea.

Original Story printed February 2019.

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 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.

Since its inception, the Florida Aquarium has helped rescue and rehab more than 150 threatened or endangered turtles.