All species of sea turtles are listed as threatened and endangered. Some of the biggest threats to these animals come from imprecise fishing methods and beach development. These and many other factors often lead to sick or injured turtles landing on beaches throughout the United States.
Who cares for these stranded turtles? Years ago, there were very few facilities to care for these sick and injured animals. Potential patients had to be transferred great distances for care and often the closest facilities were filled to capacity. Today, due to the efforts of veterinarians like Dr. Terry Norton of the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, there are more and more rehabilitation facilities available to care for these unique animals.
The veterinarians who practice in sea turtle rescue hospitals work every day to rehabilitate the sick and injured marine turtles that are transported to their hospital. They suture wounds, treat bacterial infections, care for shells, provide supportive care and offer a safe environment for their patients to recover in.
In addition to providing care to their patients, these veterinarians are also actively involved in research to help us better understand these animals and educating the public on the things that can do to help these rare animals.
Dr. Terry Norton knew he wanted to work with animals when he was a child. As he describes it “I’ve always been interested in animals my whole life. When I was a kid I had all sorts of crazy pets and I knew I wanted to become a veterinarian or a marine biologist.” He adds “I finally decided on veterinary medicine because, as a zoo or wildlife veterinarian, you have to know the history of the animal, where they’re from, how they live in their habitats and what their conservation status is. All of those things interested me.”
“I’ve always been interested in animals my whole life. When I was a kid I had all sorts of crazy pets and I knew I wanted to become a veterinarian or a marine biologist.”
As a veterinarian, it was Dr. Norton’s early work with wildlife in the coastal Georgia area that set his future direction. One of his early research projects involved looking at the health of sea turtles and it was though this project that he found a way he could help even more. “I realized that there was no rehabilitation center in Georgia and the sick turtles coming in had nowhere to go. So that’s when I started fundraising on my own to create a sea turtle center.” He adds “After about 2 years of fund raising we partnered with the Jekyll Island foundation to create not only a turtle rehabilitation center but also a education center for the island as well.”
Today, Dr. Norton is a Director and lead veterinarian at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center. He is one of approximately 120 veterinarians in the United States who are boarded with the American College of Zoological Medicine.
In this video, you’ll go behind the scenes and follow Dr. Norton as he cares for sick and injured sea turtles in hospital at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center. You’ll see the “hospital room” filled with tanks and follow the veterinarian as he works to rehabilitate his patients and release them back into the wild.