By Jennifer Tuohy, Island Eye News Staff Writer
Photos by Steve Rosamilia
On Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016 the Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery Center took its first step toward concrete reality, with a ceremonial groundbreaking at the South Carolina Aquarium.
Opening in May 2017, the Recovery Center will replace the Madagascar experience and will provide a glimpse into how the aquarium’s sea turtle hospital continues its mission of conservation and care.
While the sea turtle hospital will still occupy its basement home, this expanded, state-of-the-art recovery and medical care facility will be in full public view, on the first floor of the aquarium. It will function as both an active sea turtle rehabilitation space and an interactive exhibit for visitors.
Founded in 2000, the Sea Turtle Hospital is a world-renowned center for innovative animal care.
This year the hospital marked the successful release of its 200th patient. When the exhibit opens it will guide visitors through the journey that a turtle goes through when it arrives at the hospital; from Rescue, to Rehabilitation, to Release. Each gallery will be animated by interactive experiences and technologies that bring the learning experience to life:
The Rescue Gallery
The entry point to the exhibit, the Rescue Gallery will show visitor the dangers facing sea turtle populations and highlight the groups that work tirelessly to rescue injured turtles and deliver them to the aquarium.
The Rehabilitation Gallery
Through interactive displays and interpretive graphics, the admission process of a sea turtle into hospital will be highlighted.
Guests will interact with sea turtle models using augmented reality technology. There will also be a working medical facility here, including an examination room, surgical suite, pharmacy, and CT/radiograph room, new rehabilitation tanks including tanks that can accommodate larger animals, and an exercise pool to prepare turtles for release and a life support room behind the recovery area to ensure a quiet environment for the animals to heal.
The Release Gallery and Theater/Classroom
A multi-use theater and classroom space rounds out the exhibition before a Release Gallery celebrates the turtles who have been medically cleared, or who are nearing medical clearance for release back into the wild.
At the ceremonial groundbreaking Jonathan Zucker, chairman of the aquarium’s board of directors and son of Jerry Zucker, founding board member of the aquarium, expressed his family’s excitement to be part of the new hospital. “This is truly an opportunity to make a difference in the world,” he said.