Marinelife Center protects sea turtles

Sea turtles splashed around in the sparkling blue water of their tanks as employees busily bustled around, informing the public and saving sea turtle lives. This was just a regular day at the Loggerhead Marinelife Center (LMC) in Juno Beach.

“The Loggerhead Marinelife Center is a happy place. Many people come from all over and when they get here they are like, ‘Wow!’ It [the LMC] teaches many people not to do careless acts that hurt the turtles. I learn what they know about the ocean and turtles and I get to see through their eyes,” Leanna Landsmann, LMC board member, said.

The LMC was originally founded by Eleanor Fletcher, a long time Juno Beach resident. Fletcher noticed the large number of sea turtles nesting on her beach and she began to study them. In her research, Fletcher found that sea turtles were endangered because of the many people moving in closer to the shoreline. Fletcher began teaching about the turtles. Her classes expanded, and in 1983 she founded the Children’s Museum of Juno Beach. In April 2007, the nonprofit organization moved into its current location and changed its name to Loggerhead Marinelife Center. The center is now currently run by Jack Lighton.

“The LMC has been operating for over 30 years. Originally it was just where parking was. Expansion opened in 2015,” Amanda Moore, LMC marketing and communications director, said.

 

The LMC is dedicated to helping injured and endangered sea turtles. The center takes in injured sea turtles, treats their wounds and sicknesses, then releases the turtles back into the wild after their rehabilitation. All of this is accomplished with the help of volunteers and staff.

“There are many volunteers. Some help with turtle releases, in the yard, cleaning turtles, and speaking to the public. We have over 300 volunteers, who work thousands of hours,” Landsmann said.

Along with volunteers and staff, according to Landsmann, the LMC has many “qualified veterinarians to help the turtles.” The veterinarians work hard to help the turtles. The LMC labs include an upgraded x-ray room, a surgical lab, a bloodwork lab, an ultrasound, and an endoscope, which allows “numerous sea turtles to be examined and treated at LMC.”

“Dr. Manire is the Center Veterinarian. Dr. Manire identifies the problem, and figures out a way to help the turtles,” Landsmann said. “He saves many turtles. The doctor actually discovered a way of giving nutrients to turtles that are starving and suffering. Dr. Manire saves 80 percent of those suffering turtles.”

Many sea turtles come to the LMC because of various sicknesses and injuries. Turtles can be caught in plastic, veered away from the ocean because of light from homes when nesting, and even eat plastic, assuming it is a jellyfish.

“A lot of damage comes from human interaction. Unfortunately a lot of turtles are poached. People also do things indirectly. Littering is one of the biggest problems. If turtles get caught in trash, they can really get hurt,” Hanna Rubin, LMC’s fundraiser and head of the turtle adoption program, said.

 

After going through rehabilitation, sea turtles are released back into the ocean through a turtle release, an event where a sea turtle is released back into the wild. Visitors are welcome to watch the turtles go free and swim back home.

“My best turtle story was when a turtle named Mayor Dan was released,” Landsmann said. “We all went to the turtle release. It was joyous; the people were cheering ‘Go Mayor Dan!’ The turtle looked around, turned around, and crawled back up the beach. They eventually got him turned around though, and he got back to the water.”

Without the staff, none of the work performed would be possible. The staff is responsible to “promote conservation of all ocean ecosystems with a special focus on threatened and endangered sea turtles,” Moore said. The staff members feel they are all connected and they share the same passion. LMC’s staff share many memories with one another and enjoy their LMC experience.

“Working at LMC is never slow and always different. You get to work with just about everyone. One of my favorite LMC memories is when I got to go out on a turtle rescue boat. I was excited to see the reef and help the injured sea turtles,” Rubin said.

In the future, LMC plans to expand their center. The expansion will make room for more turtles and create conference and classroom space. The expansion will also include a new interactive exhibit, outdoor amphitheater and Ocean Reef Tank, and much more.

Landsmann said, “My advice for aspiring Loggerhead Marinelife Center workers and volunteers is this: You got to love the ocean. You got to love the turtles. You got to love the people. You have to be enthusiastic about the mission, and believe that we can make a difference by educating the public. All turtles we serve are injured or endangered, so we really aim to help the turtles the best we can.”