The Palm Beaches is home to gorgeous sandy shores, endless water activities, world class culture, outdoor festivals, shopping, and fabulous dining options under the shining sun. There are fewer crowds and it’s an ideal spot to rest and recharge. As travellers to any new destination, it’s important to clean up after ourselves, practice sustainable tourism, preserve nature, and respect wildlife. We can all do our part to keep our earth beautiful and support initiatives that protect animals . From endangered and threatened sea turtles to injured foxes, raccoons and panthers, these three organizations are helping save Florida’s wildlife in The Palm Beaches.
Gumbo Limbo Nature Center
Gumbo Limbo Nature Center in Boca Raton, whose mission is to inspire stewardship of coastal and marine ecosystems, was founded in 1984 and is a beacon for environmental education, research, and conservation. Visitors to the nature center can take a self-guided tour and learn about sea turtles and the serious issues they face. The turtle conservation team rescues sick and injured sea turtles throughout southern Palm Beach County with an on site Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Facility. They help between 50-100 turtle patients and 200-300 hatchings annually. Some sick turtles arrive with fibropapilloma (FP) tumors on their flippers and have trouble swimming and diving. Others have these tumors around their mouth and eyes which makes it harder for them to find food. The tumors are surgically removed whenever possible.
“The goal is for every turtle to be released into the wild, except for the ones that can’t, as determined by a veterinarian.” – Leanne Welch, Manager Gumbo Limbo Nature Center
FP in turtles has been linked to polluted waters, where many of these turtles are found. In addition to pollution, sea turtles are threatened from collisions with boats, getting caught in fishing gear, and losing nesting habitats related to coastal development, vehicle traffic and other human activities such as plastic pollution. Sea turtles ingest plastic garbage discarded by humans and this causes injuries to their internal organs and intestinal blockages that can lead to their death if not treated. Whitney Crowder, Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Coordinator at the facility explains that sea turtle bellies are being filled with plastic.
“We see through the turtles what is happening to the environment. We need to share our message so people know what is happening to our oceans. We educate them here.” – Whitney Crowder, Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Coordinator
If you want to help turtles you can ‘adopt’ a resident sea turtle or turtle hatchling. All proceeds from these initiatives go towards conservation or rehabilitation programs.
Busch Wildlife Center
Busch Wildlife Center in Jupiter is an animal sanctuary and hospital providing emergency and ongoing medical care to over 6,000 animals annually. Animals arrive sick, injured or orphaned, mostly from humane-related injuries such as being hit by cars, illegal gun shots, poisoning and getting caught up in fishing lines. The ultimate goal at Busch Wildlife is to safely release recovered patients to their natural habitats across Palm Beach County. But some animals are too badly injured to be returned to the wild so they live out the rest of their lives at the sanctuary. These animals will hopefully inspire visitors to engage in local conservation efforts and help spread awareness about the importance of protecting wildlife.
Rescued animals that call the sanctuary home include raccoons, foxes, owls, eagles, deer, turtles, alligators, parrots, skunks, bobcats, panthers and black bears. Unlike zoos, Busch Wildlife Center does not charge admission fees because their main goal is to save rescued animals and release them whenever possible – they are a non-profit organization. However, donations help provide food, shelter and medicine for the animals that call the sanctuary home and so staff can continue to do lifesaving work for wildlife. Tahmahlah the mountain lion also calls Busch home, although he is originally from California. His eyes and paws were badly burned in wildfires when he was just a cub and he could not be released back into the wild and is now a Florida resident. The sanctuary is currently developing a larger campus on almost 20 acres so animals like Tahmahlah can move to a bigger location, and the sanctuary can continue to rescue, rehabilitate and release Florida’s native species back into the wild after being treated.
Loggerhead Marinelife Center
Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach focuses on ocean and sea turtle conservation. In 2021 their hospital team cared for 83 sea turtles and 704 hatchlings. They do not currently have any sea turtle patients in their facility, but they continue to offer tours and provide daily programs such as their Rescue to Release Virtual Reality Theater Show that allows guests to experience a sea turtle’s journey. Their new outdoor sea turtle hospital will open soon and be able to help turtles that require assistance during the 2022 sea turtle nesting season. Similarly to Gumbo Limbo, you can also “adopt” a sea turtle at Loggerhead Marine Center once new patients have arrived. In the meantime if you want to help turtles and the earth, consider joining their Tour de Trash initiative or one of their upcoming self-guided beach cleanup dates and help keep South Florida’s coast beautiful by picking up trash.