CHARLESTON, SC - Last month, the South Carolina Aquarium was awarded a 2019 National Medal for Museum and Library Service. The Institute of Museum of Library Service pays tribute to organizations “that are making a difference for individuals, families, and communities.” The Institute noted that the South Carolina Aquarium keeps its emphasis on native species with its collection and community outreach opportunities. Education and conservation are key priorities for the organization. 

The shining star of the Charleston-based Aquarium is, perhaps, the Sea Turtle Care Center™. When a loggerhead turtle is found stranded along the South Carolina coast, the South Carolina Department of Natural Sources (SCDNR) transports it to the South Carolina Aquarium Sea Turtle Care Center™ where animal care employees provide lifesaving treatment. According to the staff, many turtles are brought to the center with human influenced injuries such as boat strikes, fishing gear entanglements, and plastic ingestion. Another common ailment is Debilitated Turtle Syndrome (DTS). Debilitated turtles usually strand after prolonged illness (such as an infection from an injury) and are usually anemic, dehydrated, nutritionally deficient and underweight.

The veterinarian team diagnoses each turtle and develops a plan to provide medical treatment and rehabilitative care. The goal is to return the animals to the wild in hopes that they will become reproductive members of the sea turtle population. A recent expansion of the South Carolina Aquarium’s in-house hospital created a space that can be viewed as a public exhibit, bringing the day-to-day work of the Sea Turtle Care Center into full view on the Aquarium’s main floor and makes the real-life rehabilitation of sick and injured sea turtles visible to every visiting guest.

Danielle Raub, Communications Coordinator at the South Carolina Aquarium, says that there are a number of things local residents can do to help the sea turtle population, including “limiting single-use plastics, cleaning up after a visit to the beach (including filling in holes and knocking down sandcastles) and turning off beachfront lights. When boating, be sure to follow slow speed and no wake signs, try to stay in deep-water channels whenever possible, and designate someone as your sea turtle spotter. Lastly, if you see a sick or injured turtle contact SCDNR at 1-800-922-5431. These simple yet important actions help make a difference in sea turtle conservation.”