Zoo Miami opens a sea turtle hospital to aid the endangered species

Zoo Miami’s sea turtle hospital has treated and released turtles since its opening this past June.

The zoo has helped conserve and bring awareness to the on-going endangerment crisis that all seven species of sea turtles are facing. With five of those species being found in Florida’s waters, Miami’s zoo is operating a 1,600 sq. ft. hospital to help these turtles get back into the wild. 

In conjunction with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Zoo Miami Foundation, the hospital was made a reality the zoo’s Southwest Miami-Dade grounds. It features five salt-water enclosures. The hospital is only accessible to zoo medical staff and is not open to the general public, though visitors can view the hospital by booking special VIP tours with the zoo. 

“The sea turtle hospital has been a huge addition to the zoo,” said Zoo Miami spokesman Ron Magill. “Having a hospital to save, to rehabilitate and to release these animals back into the wild, that’s the ultimate goal.”

The zoo’s mission of conservation is at the forefront of the entire project. Magill said that they have lost a handful of turtles that were unsalvageable, but are currently housing turtles they expect to be released back into the wild, including the rare hawksbill sea turtle. 

This hospital serves as an extension of the current animal hospital within the zoo, but with the goal of releasing these turtles, rather than making them permanent zoo residents. 

The hospital is the facility in Miami-Dade that can treat fibropapillomatosis, a potentially deadly disease that causes tumors on the turtle’s skin. 

The Miami Seaquarium treats turtles in South Florida, though at a limited capacity. Zoo Miami’s hospital is able to treat up to 16 turtles at a time within its five outdoor salt-water beds. The beds are separated to keep turtles with contagious diseases isolated. 

The project is a big step forward for The Miami-Dade Sea Turtle Conservation Program, Magill said.

While the zoo did not disclose how many turtles they’ve released back into the wild, Magill said he is enthusiastic about the progress they’ve made since the opening. 

“At the end of the day, that’s what the zoo really stands for,” Magill said. “Conserving these animals in the wild.”

Alfredo Banegas is a junior at Florida International University majoring in digital journalism hoping to combine his passion of sports and writing to become a sports writer. Alfredo looks to make positive changes in the way sports are covered in today’s media landscape.