In 2010, with support from the Friends of Gumbo Limbo, now GLCS, a Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Facility was opened at the GLEC. Sea turtle rehabilitation staff began treating sick and injured sea turtles, becoming the fifth sea turtle facility in the state to treat the infectious disease FP. Annually, the facility treats 175 – 220 sea turtles and continues to experience an increasing number of sea turtles in need of medical care and treatment. Major donors have included the Albert D. Firestone Foundation, Ajram Family Foundation, the Catherine O’Connor Charitable Gift Fund, Davenport Family Foundation, International Materials Foundation, JM Family Foundation, Krumholtz Family Foundation, Luggars Family Foundation, Marshall Family Foundation, Next Era Energy Foundation, REI, Sea Turtle Conservancy, Knopf Family Foundation, and the Krumholtz Family Foundation.
Background: Victoria Garefino 1 and Dr. Sarah L. Milton2 at FAU’s Department of Biological Sciences led the research,3 which compared vitamin D levels in green sea turtles with and without evident FP to determine if exposure to UV light (e.g., sunlight) would influence vitamin D levels and boost immunity in sea turtles brought to the Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Facility at GLEC. Traditionally, rehabilitation centers are covered, limiting exposure to sunlight. This research suggests that increasing sunlight exposure in rehabilitation facilities will strengthen immunity, increase critical vitamin D levels, and improve sea turtle recovery from FP. Although this research was focused on green sea turtles with FP, the rehabilitation staff have also observed obvious health improvements with sea turtle patients expressing other injuries, when housed in natural sunlight. While advances in FP surgery have given sea turtles a post-surgery survival rate of over 90%,4 research suggests that improving immune function and restoring a sea turtle’s vitamin D levels using sunlight can strengthen and enhance individual rehabilitation to help spur recovery.
Project Description: The outdoor sea turtle rehabilitation facility will be constructed over a one-year period with funding from The Turtleman Foundation to help cover a portion of the costs for equipment (i.e., rehabilitation tanks, skimmers, and pumps). The goals of this project are to improve sea turtle immunity, enhance recovery, and strengthen the facility’s capacity to treat injured and sick sea turtles. To complete this project successfully, we are taking two main avenues to raise the funds necessary to complete the project. The first avenue is through securing grant funding. The organization has identified over $500,000 in private and family philanthropic grants that we are actively pursuing. Recently, we received S22,499 from the Sea Turtle Conservancy in support of the project.
For our second avenue, we will leverage this grant to spark a community fundraising campaign entitled “Operation Sunshine.” Currently, the organization is working on developing an external fundraising campaign, including engaging and prospecting past major donors using our CRM software to identify individuals with the ability and capacity to donate over $10,000. In addition, we are working with Advisory and Board members to launch a special “task force” to
provide guidance and leadership to the fundraising campaign. The task force will develop strategies (e.g., hosting intimate house parties, cultivating and identifying new major donors, engaging past donors, etc.) to reach our fundraising goal. All Board members of the organization have pledged to donate to the campaign. We are also engaging our compassionate community of volunteers to raise grassroots funding of small-to-medium size ($25 – $250) one-time and reoccurring donations to help us maintain the facility.
Success will be measured by 1. the construction of a new outdoor rehabilitation facility at Gumbo Limbo Environmental Complex, 2. increasing the facility’s capacity to provide medical care and treatment to sick and injured sea turtles, and 3. enhancing sea turtle rehabilitation to improve immunity and spur recovery. Failure will be measured by following similar indicators, including keeping a pulse on the community’s engagement in the project, whether we are able to raise the required funds, any construction timeline barriers.
Once complete, the new outdoor sea turtle rehabilitation facility will have a greater capacity to provide top-notch, world-renowned veterinary care and treatment to a growing number of sick and injured sea turtles that are coming to the facility. The facility will provide enhanced veterinary care by exposing sea turtles to vitamin D-rich sunlight during rehabilitation. The facility will track the recovery timing and outcomes of the sea turtles placed in the outdoor facility and match data points against historic recovery data. As a result, we hope to spur quick recovery and better outcomes for sick and injured sea turtles through enhanced rehabilitation methods.
Below are renderings of where the new outdoor sea turtle facility will be constructed at the Gumbo Limbo Environmental Complex.