A Window Into the Wild
|Photos©Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium|
|Visitors to The Aquarium at Mote Marine Laboratory can now get even closer to the sea turtle hatchlings that we treat each year, thanks to a generous donation from a local family.
The donation, which has helped us install a new viewing window and refurbish our hospital habitat for these tiny sea turtle patients, was made by the Kukanza Family.
The new viewing window allows The Aquarium visitors to watch as we treat the sea turtle hatchlings that come to Mote each year during nesting season. Visitors can see animal care staff weigh and measure each hatchling. They can also watch as we check for any injuries and prepare the turtles’ meals.
After being checked, hatchlings that need further care are then admitted to the hospital and can be seen on exhibit in the newly refurbished habitat until we return them to the wild.
For the Kukanza Family, the donation was a way they could help others see and care for marine life. “We are firm believers in conservation and we’ve always tried to instill in our children the concept of giving back if you’re able,” says Lynn Kukanza of Sarasota. “Last year, Allison, our youngest daughter, chose not to receive birthday presents and instead asked for donations for the sea turtles at Mote. She raised over $600 — we were very proud!
“We’ve also had the opportunity to experience some of the contributions Mote makes to research and we thought this was a way we could help all Mote visitors have a similar up-close experience, too. If they can see the hatchlings and connect with them, maybe it will help them understand that only one in 1,000 sea turtles makes it to adulthood. They’ll see the importance of keeping the beaches dark during nesting season, of not disturbing turtle nests and watching out for turtles and other sea life when boating.”
All sea turtle species are threatened or endangered and experts estimate that only one in 1,000 turtles will live to adulthood to reproduce. Turtles are also affected by things like artificial lighting on beaches (click here for our Dos and Don’ts of nesting season) and habitat destruction.
Mote’s sea turtle conservation efforts include the Hatchling Hospital, our Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Hospital, which treats older patients, the Sea Turtle Patrol team of 300 staff and volunteers who patrol our beaches daily during nesting season and an active scientific research program that includes satellite tracking sea turtles to follow their journeys at sea and behavioral research on our resident (adult) sea turtles. Combined, these efforts are shedding new light on sea turtles lives so that we may help save them in the wild.
During a typical nesting season, which occurs May through October on Florida’s west coast beaches, sea turtle hatchlings are brought to Mote during the peak hatching months of July through September. Most are released shortly after they’re checked out and determined to be in good health; others must stay until they’re healthy enough for release, says Holly West, exhibit coordinator.
“Some of them come from excavations of nests and can be released right away; but others have been found in swimming pools or were injured when a raccoon, coyote or other animal dug up their nest,” West says. “Each year, we receive about 1,000 hatchlings. Having this new viewing area will help show our visitors how we care for the turtles in order to boost the species’ overall survival and, we hope, connect them to these animals. After all, they’re some of the cutest things you’ll ever see!”
Mote appreciates dedicated donors — like the Kukanzas — who help provide us the resources that allow us to teach our visitors about marine life and conserving species, said Dr. Kumar Mahadevan, Mote President and CEO. "Such donations illustrate that supporting a cause you care about really can be a family affair and that everyone can make a difference. Not only has the Kukanzas' generous support helped us upgrade our hatchling admissions area, but it will also help us spread the word so others can get involved in saving sea turtles too."
If you'd like information on donating to an exhibit in The Aquarium at Mote Marine Laboratory, please contact the Development office at 941-388-4441, ext. 309.
Mote Marine Laboratory has been a leader in marine research since it was founded in 1955. Today, we incorporate public outreach as a key part of our mission. Mote is an independent nonprofit organization and has seven centers for marine research, the public Mote Aquarium and an Education Division specializing in public programs for all ages.