The Turtle Hospital was opened in 1986 with four main goals: 1) rehab injured sea turtles and return them to the wild, 2) educate the public through outreach programs to local schools, 3) conduct and assist with research which aids the sea turtles (in conjunction with state universities), and 4) work toward environmental legislation which makes the beaches and water safe and clean for sea turtles.
The Turtle Hospital (Hidden Harbor Marine Environmental Project, Inc.) is a 501(c)(3) charitable corporation. The Hidden Harbor Motel provides the space and buildings needed to house and care for the sea turtles. The Turtle Hospital offers Guided Educational Experiences to public daily 7 days a week. Please call 305-743-2552 for further information and reservations.
The Turtle Hospital contains up-to-date equipment needed to perform a variety of surgeries on different species and sizes of sea turtles. More than half of this equipment has been donated by local hospitals and doctors, and some equipment has been donated by environmentally- friendly organizations and individuals.
A variety of turtle ailments are treated here, including flipper amputations caused by fishing line and trap rope entanglements, shell damage caused by boat collisions, and intestinal impactions caused by ingestion of foreign materials such as plastic bags, balloons, and fishing line and/or hooks. The most common surgery performed is the removal of debilitating viral tumors that affect over 50% of the sea turtles in the Keys and around the world.
The Turtle Hospital and the University of Florida have been doing cooperative research into the causes of fibropapilloma, the devastating viral tumors which affect sea turtles. This is currently the only known disease affecting wild animals on a global basis. The virus has been successfully transmitted (proving that it is infectious) and current research concentrates on isolating the cause.
The Turtle Hospital has successfully treated and released over 750 Sea Turtles since its founding in 1986. The turtles are released in a variety of ways and at different locations depending on species. Greens are taken either to Pigeon Key via ambulance or they are taken to a spot 20 miles north of Marathon in the Florida Bay. Loggerheads are usually released at Pigeon Key or launched off a boat into the gulf or ocean. Kemp’s Ridleys are taken 70 miles west of Key West out to the coral reefs of the Dry Tortugas.