No Direction Home

This humble blog was started to document our travels around the country during the summer of 2006, We have opted to continue updating it due to the requests from family & friends. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Hi Ho Harry!

August 24, 2019


Hi Ho Harry!

The Turtle Hospital in Marathon does remarkable work. Founded in 1986 by my friend Richie Moretti who turned his Marathon hotel at the time into a full scale sea turtle rescue and rehabilitation facility that he dubbed the Turtle Hospital.  Moretti’s Turtle Hospital was among the first of its kind in the world. In one building is the operating room where turtles are repaired. It’s where tumors caused by the mysterious fibropapilloma virus are cut away, where broken shells are patched with fiberglass and plastic debris is removed from turtle stomachs.


From there recovering turtles are placed in small holding tanks until they grow strong enough to eat on their own. Next they go to slightly larger tanks shared with other turtles. After that they are moved into a 100,000-gallon saltwater pool where they can easily swim and gather their strength for the final step months later – the day Richie and his staff release them back into the wild. Over the years Richie has saved more than 1,500 turtles from death.

The Sea Turtle Hospital is so well known in the Keys that fishermen now bring him injured and sick turtles. But when they can’t, Richie sends out one of his two turtle ambulances. They’re equipped with kayaks and netting (in case a technician has to chase down an ailing turtle). Over the years I have known Richie I have attended maybe 25 of his turtle release, both from the shore and from beaches nearby where the turtles were rescued.

I always love the releases, though they can sometimes be quite the spectacle as they are often very public affairs. So I was thrilled to learn that The Turtle Hospital in conjunction with the Key West Sea Turtle Club was going to be doing a release of a turtle only a few blocks from our house at Higgs Beach behind Salute.

Harry an olive ridley sea turtle was rescued about six miles offshore of the Keys in early February. While olive ridley turtles are the most abundant sea turtle species in the world, they typically aren’t found in the United States. Harry was found floating and entangled in a massive “ghost” fishing net. Unfortunately, ghost nets and fishing gear are the greatest threat olive ridleys face.


Harry was rescued and transported in the turtle ambulance to the Turtle Hospital for treatment. Harry was emaciated with life threateningly low blood values and suffered entanglement injuries on all four flippers. Treatment at the Turtle Hospital included broad spectrum antibiotics, IV nutrition, class 4 laser therapy, wound treatment, vitamins and a healthy diet of fish, shrimp and squid. Harry made a miraculous recovery and was ready to be returned to the wild with the public release.

A tracking device has been affixed to Harry’s back and you can track his movements using the link below. The beach was packed with people for the release, hundreds of members of the public, turtle volunteers and even school groups visiting on a field trip were on hand to wish Harry well and watch his return to the wild. Since he was so small and was released very close to the water’s edge, some people may have had trouble seeing the actual release. I found a spot in the water to try and get a good vantage point.

Richie always allows for a few minutes for children to come up before the release and get a close look at the animal and while it may seem to stress them out a bit, in the long run, the educational value in letting the kids get up close and personal and learn about the turtle’s plight is a small price to pay for a couple of minutes of discomfort prior to being free again.

It always brings great joy to see the turtles returned to their natural habitat and I applaud all of the staff and volunteers at the Turtle Hospital for making it possible. They truly are environmental heroes. Here’s wishing Harry a safe, full and happy life.


Post a Comment

<< Home