Postcard from a Turtle Hospital

As editors, the stories we work on inevitably affect us in some way, although some more than others. While working on the photo essay “Tortuga Rising” (May/June 2013), I became fascinated with the plight of sea turtles, Dr. Wallace J. Nichols’s work to save them, and simply charmed by these amazing and gentle creatures.

While editing the feature, I had the opportunity to visit the Mote Aquarium while on holiday in Sarasota, Florida. With help from Dr. Nichols, I was able to take a private tour of Mote’s turtle hospital (who knew!), speak with Mote’s dedicated team of turtle rehabbers, and meet Binx, Chelsea, and Grinch—all patients at the hospital—and then explore the aquarium itself.

Below are photos from the sea turtle exhibit. These turtle specialists have taught the turtles to perform tricks! Although seemingly “untrainable,” many sea turtles can actually be taught to recognize shapes and colors and swim towards them for treats.

They also have distinct personalities. Take Shelley and Montego: one sister was a sweetheart, and the other a bit of a prima donna and grump.

And of course, no trip to Mote is complete without a visit with Hugh and Buffett, who exist mainly on sixty pounds of romaine lettuce a day.

Check out “Tortuga Rising,” Orion‘s May/June 2013 feature on sea turtles, and you’ll likely be smitten with these ancient mariners, too.

Andrew D. Blechman is managing editor of Orion.


  1. Awesome! But what is our fascination with teaching other animals tricks? It’s not enough their injuried and in captivity, they have to jump through hoops (literally?) too?

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