Cutting-Edge Care at KBSTRRC
The dedicated volunteers at the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center have been caring for North Carolina's sick and injured sea turtles since 1995. The sea turtle hospital evolved from the Topsail Island Turtle Project, founded by Karen Beasley to monitor and facilitate sea turtle nesting on Topsail Island, North Carolina. After Karen's untimely death in 1991, her mother Jean stepped in to lead the volunteer beach walkers and nest-sitters.
In 1995 a juvenile loggerhead with severe boat-propeller injuries washed ashore, and turtle project volunteers arranged for the animal, dubbed "Lucky," to receive treatment at the NC State University College of Veterinary Medicine. After Lucky's treatment, the turtle volunteers worked 18 months to rehabilitate him, and he was released back to the wild. In 1996, the staff cared for other injured sea turtles at a makeshift outdoor rehabilitation facility in a volunteer's backyard, but there were no facilities to care for sea turtles over the winter. That same year, the town of Topsail Beach generously leased a small lot on the Intracoastal Waterway to the sea turtle project. In 1997 the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center (KBSTRRC) opened an 850-square-foot facility. As more and more sick and injured animals made their way to the hospital, the small building was usually filled wall-to-wall with turtle tanks, particularly in winter, in a space that originally was meant to house 8 turtles.
By the mid-2000s, after volunteers had rehabilitated and released hundreds of sea turtles, it was obvious that the hospital had outgrown its building. Thanks to support and donations from a number of organizations and many, many individuals, KBSTRRC was able to build a 13,000-square-foot building in Surf City, and the hospital moved into its new facility in the autumn of 2013. The facility includes an onsite operating room, a hydrotherapy pool, an isolation ward, and Sea Turtle Bay, which houses on-the-mend sea turtles in individual tanks that are bathed in natural sunlight from multiple skylights. You can find out about the latest events at the sea turtle hospital on their website or their Facebook page.
From humble beginnings... ... to a dream realized
Therapy at the sea turtle hospital has evolved over the years. When the volunteers first began their work, little was known about sea turtle behavior and how to treat and feed them. The KBSTRRC team has been instrumental in developing many of the protocols used to rehabilitate sea turtles today. In 2007, Jean Beasley was recognized as Animal Planet Network's Animal Hero of the Year for her pioneering work. She was recognized in 2013 as winner of the Ocean Hero Award from Oceana, an international organization that focuses on ocean conservation. Jean is a past member of the Board of Directors for the International Sea Turtle Society.
Jean calls sea turtles a "bellwether species." Their overall numbers and health indicate the condition of our oceans. The Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center continues to expand its programs for sea turtle care and for public education. You can help support this non-profit, all-volunteer organization in its mission. Click here to learn how you can play an important part in supporting sea turtle conservation at the sea turtle hospital.