We are going to visit the South Carolina Aquarium to learn more about the efforts to save all types of sea turtles
My kids were raised on the coast, and they practically lived in the water during the summer. The year they were 10 and 13, I decided I wanted them to learn a little more about the creatures they were swimming with. Since we had a family vacation to South Carolina planned for that summer, we decided it was the perfect opportunity to have a little fun with something inspiring mixed in.
I took it upon myself to research more about sea turtles. I informed the kids that all seven species of sea turtles are either threatened or endangered, and those funny guys you remember from Finding Nemo were at risk for disappearing completely from the earth.
"Mom, why are they so threatened?" my 10-year-old daughter, Kate asked.
I explained to her that sea turtles are at risk for everything from marine pollution to illegal shell trade. She couldn't fathom a world where someone would harm an innocent turtle in order to make money. I took her surprise as the perfect opportunity to introduce our summer vacation.
"We are going to visit the South Carolina Aquarium to learn more about the efforts to save all types of sea turtles," I told the kids.
This was their chance to learn that the world is bigger than the things they see every day.
This is South Carolina's only hospital for injured or sick sea turtles
We checked into our hotel in downtown Charleston and got a good night's sleep. The next morning after breakfast, we started our journey to the Aquarium, set against the stunning backdrop of the Charleston Harbor.
The Aquarium itself had a fun, upbeat atmosphere and I didn't see one person without an ear-to-ear grin. From toddlers with stuffed animals to young couples with 4-D glasses, everyone was having a good time. We spent some time visiting the exhibits showcasing animals from all over. Then we decided to buy tickets for a tour of the Sea Turtle Hospital.
Before we entered the hospital, I took the chance to relay some of the information I had learned during my research about sea turtles.
"This is South Carolina's only hospital for injured or sick sea turtles," I told them. "Think of how you visit the doctor when you are sick, and you are given treatment and medicine until you feel better. That is exactly what these people are doing for these turtles every day."
In one part of the hospital, the kids were able to get down and make eye contact with the turtles. They were amazed at the enormous size of them! While they had seen turtles in the zoo and as pets, this was a whole new eye-opening world.
The kids were encouraged to always respect the habitat of the sea turtle when encountering them in the wild
Each of the turtles had names, and Kate developed a particular fondness for a turtle named Prescott. He was brought to the Aquarium because of hypothermia, and deals regularly with inflammation and swelling in his joints. Kate looked into his eyes and made an instant connection. If I didn't know better, I would think my 10-year-old was in love.
We all had our favorites, but every turtle tugged at my heartstrings. We listened as our tour guide explained that stranded sea turtles are reported by concerned citizens, and the rescue effort works in concert with the Department of Natural Resources to pick them up and bring them to the South Carolina Aquarium for medical intervention. Most turtles suffer from infections, hypothermia or some type of injury from a boat or a shark.
Here at the South Carolina Aquarium, the turtles are given the medicine and care they need to become strong enough to survive on their own. My son Jack pulled me aside and voiced a concern during our tour.
"Mom, those poor turtles don't want to live in those tanks forever, do they?" he asked.
I explained to him that the effort is made to prepare the turtles to be released back into the wild.
"They just need some time to rest and get better so they can survive on their own," I told my soft-hearted boy.
The kids were encouraged to always respect the habitat of the sea turtle when encountering them in the wild, and to stay a good distance away in order to prevent the spread of disease to them or the turtle. I watched them listen attentively and realized we had done something necessary if we planned to live on the coast or visit the ocean. Our kids needed to know the importance of every animal in the life cycle, and this was just one step in teaching them.
After our fascinating visit to the Sea Turtle Hospital, we visited the gift shop to ease Kate's heartache over leaving Prescott behind. She found a stuffed animal that looked just like him and I couldn't tell her no when she turned her big brown eyes to me.
"Please, Mom? I want to sleep with him every night," she said.
Jack found a coral reef puzzle that he requested as his souvenir. Colorful fish filled the image, and a sea turtle floated near the surface of the water. Because I wanted them to remember this experience, I happily said yes to both.
We all went home with a new outlook on the world, and particularly the ocean we entertained ourselves in. Our visit to the Sea Turtle Hospital reminded us that while we loved to play in the ocean, we were still guests in someone else's home every time we entered the water.
Learn how you can help sea turtles at the South Carolina Aquarium!