In recent years, I’ve developed a penchant for adopting animals whenever I am traveling. I am the proud mama of a manatee and a turtle, and my boyfriend is the father of an owl (thanks to me, of course).
It all started with Olaf. In Juno Beach, Florida, we visited a remarkable place called the Loggerhead Marinelife Center. I knew it would be a magical experience from the moment I spotted a turtle ambulance outside in the parking lot. These people must be dedicated! The visitor center is incredibly informative. We spent a bunch of time exploring the exhibits and checking out various skeletons of sea life. The exhibits were amazingly detailed. We were there just before closing, and I realized way late in the game that there were TONS OF LIVE SEA TURTLES RECOVERING FROM INJURIES IN SMALL POOLS OUT BACK. Obviously, I raced back there to meet some turtles.
LMC rehabilitates lots of sick and injured turtles! They have dozens of turtles in their capable care at any given time. It was pretty neat to be able to see some of the turtles receiving care while in the facility.
The turtle pictured above had just been receiving care in the turtle hospital and was being placed back in his pool to rest. He had a lot of problems and needed a lot of help.
I knew from the moment I met my turtle friends that I needed to adopt one of them. It was an agonizing decision. There was one my brother liked that could only swim upside down. There was a girl named Elsa who weighed over 200 pounds. And there was my dear Olaf. Perhaps it was something in his turtley smile, or the twinkle in his turtley eyes, but he was the one for me!
Another really cool thing about LMC is that they’re extremely active on social media! They are fantastic about getting their message out on Facebook and Instagram. These guys are serious about their social media. 47,000 likes on Facebook and 20,000 followers on Insta? Damn, turtle caregivers!!! You know what you’re doing, with turtles and the internet! Props.
Happily for me, my boy Olaf got released on Earth Day, 2015! Sadly, his tracker stopped transmitting back in June 2015. You can read more of his saga here. It doesn’t bode well, and he wasn’t really swimming in the right direction when he was released.
It’s a tough battle with sea turtles in Florida! Some natural predators will snatch sea turtle eggs; commercial fishing techniques can harm sea turtles; even lights from humans on beaches at night can disorient hatchlings as they try to reach the ocean! If you’re interested in helping out by adopting a turtle of your very own, head right over here.
This past January, on a trip to Florida, I was lucky enough to be able to swim with one of my favorite creatures, MANATEES, at Crystal River. I had gone about ten years prior, and this experience felt a little different. First of all, this Manatee Monday was a DIY edition. We didn’t take a formal tour- we just rented a boat and some wetsuits and zipped out on our own. Surprising that it’s so easy to get so close to an endangered species…
Once we arrived, we parked our boat, hopped in the water, and swam right up to the mouth of Three Sisters Spring. It was truly mind boggling to see manatees packed in on top of each other like a manatee parking garage! They were just parked in neat little rows for warmth. SO MANY MANATEES! I’ve never seen anything like it. Swimming with them is pretty awe-inspiring because these behemoths often sneak up behind you or under you. They can be pretty playful! You’ll hear some clicking sounds as they communicate with each other.
I love that people have taken such an interest in manatees, but it’s a bit troubling that it’s so easy for tourists to get so close (I may sound like a hypocrite, because I got close too, but hear me out). Everyone is required to watch a safety video before going out, but it seems many people may just blatantly disregard it. People were brushing up against manatees, petting them, tapping them with their flippers or poking with paddles from kayaks. You are meant to be an observer of these beautiful, gargantuan, strange creatures in their natural environment. Disturbing these gentle giants is the absolute last thing you should do. You would think that’s obvious, but apparently it’s not!
Recently, a proposal was released recommending that manatees be downlisted from “endangered” status to “threatened” status based on improvements seen in recent years. The Save the Manatee Club strongly opposes this proposal and feels it was made prematurely. There’s plenty of discussion on the interwebs if you care to read up on it. If you’d like to help manatees, you can adopt one, just like I did!
My manatee is named Gator and was a recent addition to the adoption program! He got his name by chasing an alligator through the springs. Yeah, he’s a smarty. Or bold? Either way, I’m guessing he’d be in Gryffindor. Gator spends his winters at Blue Springs, with many other manatees, where the water is warmer. It’s lovely to visit, boasting a long boardwalk where you can walk along the water and observe the happy manatees.
When I was a kid, my parents adopted a manatee for me and her name was Ariel. I’m sure you’ll all be delighted to hear that she is still alive and well and available for adoption through SMC’s program!
On the owl side of things, there’s no real story other than the fact that this owl shares a name with my (possibly deceased turtle), but if you’re curious about Olaf the saw-whet owl, here he is in all his glory…
He is adopted from the World Bird Sanctuary. The sweet thing about their adoption program is that if you visit in person, you get visitation rights with your adoptee! As in, you can go hold the bird (with the help of one of the caretakers). So cool! Sadly, we have not met Olaf IRL. For more on this great organization, visit their website.
I could go on and on about animal adoptions! I think they’re great and special and a wonderful way to help these fantastic organizations that are focused on conservation and education efforts. I only wish the Penguin Place in Dunedin, New Zealand had allowed me to adopt a penguin! Their yellow-eyed penguins, Maggie and Jim, were shy forest penguins and they were quirky as all hell. If you ever have questions about animal adoptions, I’m your girl!
Happy Manatee Monday, all!