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ZOO MIAMI SEA TURTLE HOSPITAL GRAND OPENING!

After several years of careful planning and coordination, Zoo Miami is proud to announce the official Grand Opening of its new Sea Turtle Hospital on Wednesday, July 6th, at 10:00AM!

Working closely with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), and with funding provided by the zoo’s primary non-profit support organization, the Zoo Miami Foundation, Zoo Miami has been able to construct a 1600 sq. ft. facility that consists of five saltwater enclosures which will serve as “recovery beds” for up to 16 sea turtles that are brought to the facility for treatment.  This facility will be only the second Sea Turtle Hospital in Miami-Dade County, and the only one able to treat fibropapillomatosis (FP), a potentially fatal disease found in sea turtles which causes cauliflower-like tumors to grow on the skin, including the eyes and mouth, as well as internal organs.  The facility is located in a behind-the-scenes area across from the Zoo Miami Animal Hospital and will eventually be accessible to the public through specially arranged tours. 

In preparation for the management of its Sea Turtle Hospital, the Zoo Miami Animal Health Team has collaborated closely with several established sea turtle facilities including the Brevard Zoo, Loggerhead Marinelife Center, Gumbo Limbo Nature Center and the Turtle Hospital in the Florida Keys.  Teams have traveled to several of the centers to work with some of the world’s most renowned sea turtle experts and receive invaluable hands-on experience with not only a wide variety of treatments, but also with releases back to the wild.

Prior to its Grand Opening and after receiving its permits from the FWC back in April, the Sea Turtle Hospital has already received patients for emergency treatments.  The most notable is a huge 388 pound female loggerhead turtle named “Baymax,” that arrived from a Port St. Lucie site several weeks ago and had suffered a critical injury from an apparent shark attack.  She arrived laden with eggs which she was induced to lay and were then placed in a man-made nest for incubation by a team from the Miami-Dade County Sea Turtle Conservation Program (STCP) which has also been a collaborator in this endeavor.  The massive reptile required surgery to amputate what remained of her badly mangled front left flipper and has since been recovering well.  The team is cautiously optimistic that she will be able to be released within the next few weeks.

All five species of sea turtles that are found in Florida waters are classified as threatened or endangered.  Their greatest threats are pollution such as plastics and balloons that the turtles ingest which leads to digestive blockages and starvation, improperly discarded fishing nets and lines that they get tangled up in, boat strikes, cold stress, threats to their nesting beaches and the aforementioned fibropapillomatosis virus (FP).  Zoo Miami’s new Sea Turtle Hospital will play an invaluable role in providing world-class veterinary care to sea turtles affected by these threats with the primary goal being that it leads to their rehabilitation and release back to the wild.

An official ribbon-cutting ceremony, attended by elected officials and key team members will take place on Wednesday, July 6th, at 10:00AM.  Interested media is asked to arrive at the zoo no later than 9:45am so that they can be properly positioned prior to the ceremony.

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