The Palm Beaches is home to beautiful sandy shores, endless water activities, world-class culture, outdoor festivals, shopping and fabulous dining options under the shining sun. It’s less crowded and it’s a great place to rest and rejuvenate. As travelers to any new destination, it is important to clean up after us, 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
The Gumbo Limbo Nature Center in Boca Raton, whose mission is to inspire the management 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 through an on-site Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Center. They help between 50-100 turtle patients and 200-300 hatchlings per year. Some sick turtles arrive with fibropapilloma (FP) tumors on their fins and have difficulty swimming and diving. Others have these tumors around their mouths and eyes, making it difficult for them to find food. Tumors are surgically removed whenever possible.
“The goal is for every turtle to be released into the wild, except for those that cannot, as determined by a veterinarian.” – Leanne Welch, Director of 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 by ship strikes, entanglement in fishing gear, and loss of nesting habitats related to coastal development, vehicle traffic, and other human activities such as than plastic pollution. Sea turtles ingest human-discarded plastic waste, which causes damage to their internal organs and intestinal blockages that can lead to death if left untreated. Whitney Crowder, sea turtle rehabilitation coordinator at the facility, says sea turtle bellies are 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 a turtle hatchling. All profits from these initiatives are donated to 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 more than 6,000 animals each year. Animals arrive sick, injured or orphaned, mostly from cruelty-related injuries such as being hit by cars, illegal shootings, poisoning and being caught in fishing lines . Busch Wildlife’s ultimate goal 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 spend the rest of their lives at the sanctuary. These animals will hopefully inspire visitors to engage in local conservation efforts and help raise awareness of 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, the Busch Wildlife Center does not charge admission fees as its main goal is to save rescued animals and release them whenever possible – it is 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 vital work for wildlife. Tahmahlah, the mountain lion, also inhabits Busch, although he is a native of California. His eyes and paws were badly burned in wildfires when he was just a cub and couldn’t be released into the wild and is now a resident of Florida. The sanctuary is currently developing a larger campus on nearly 20 acres so animals like Tahmahlah can move to a bigger place, and the sanctuary can continue to rescue, rehabilitate, and release native Florida species back into the wild after being processed.
Loggerhead Marine Life Center
The Loggerhead Marinelife Center at Juno Beach focuses on ocean and sea turtle conservation. In 2021, their hospital team treated 83 sea turtles and 704 hatchlings. They currently have no sea turtle patients at their facility, but they continue to offer daily tours and programs such as their Rescue to Release virtual reality theater show which allows guests to experience the journey of a sea turtle. Their new outdoor sea turtle hospital will be opening soon and can help turtles who need help during the 2022 sea turtle nesting season. As with Gumbo Limbo, you can also “adopt” a sea turtle from sea at Loggerhead Marine Center once new patients arrive. In the meantime, if you want to help the turtles and the land, consider joining their Tour de Trash initiative or one of their upcoming self-guided beach cleanup dates and help keep the South Florida coast beautiful by picking up litter. .