SURF CITY, N.C. (WNCT) – Topsail Island is known for its beautiful beaches, but it’s also a sanctuary for the endangered loggerhead sea turtle. In 1997, the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center opened its doors to care for these animals.
”We go from the point of rescue to the point of release, and all that goes in between, to return healthy animals back to the wild” said Jean Beasley, the director of The Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center.
Beasley has directed the hospital from the start almost 20 years ago.
”Looking after sea turtles is very intensive, it’s very time consuming, and it’s also resource consuming” explained Beasley.
She found out the hard way years ago when she took one to veterinarians at NC State for care.
”They worked on that little turtle for the better part of a day and I said ok the turtle’s out of anesthesia, everything’s good, could I come back and see it, and they all looked at me like I was crazy and said what do you mean come back to see it, we don’t have any place to keep a sea turtle, it’s going home with you. So when I say a sea turtle did it, that’s what happened” said Beasley.
So, she started and still runs the only privately funded sea turtle hospital in the state. And it’s not just the hospital that’s helping the sea turtles. Over one hundred people comb these beaches everyday looking for nests.
Terry Meyer, the director of the Topsail Island Beach Nesting Program explains:
”There’s not a lot of beach. The people have to use the same space that the turtles use to nest, so our volunteers are out in the morning identifying nest areas so that we can mark them off and protect them during the incubation period.”
Volunteers like Vicki Cooper make sure all 26 miles of beachfront on Topsail Island are covered.
”I just appreciate the people here that are trying to save the sea turtles. We have a fantastic group on Topsail Island that takes care of them. Looking forward to keep doing it” said Cooper.
And after 4 years, she finally found her first nest just a few weeks ago.
Cooper explained how she felt:
”I was so excited I called my coordinator and she says Vicki I’ll be there in just a few minutes, go ahead and finish your walk, and I’ll come back and meet you. I didn’t want to leave the nest!”
She looks forward to going back in a few weeks to see the hatchlings head for the ocean.
The sea turtle hospital just moved to a new facility in Surf City 2 years ago and sees about 1000 visitors a day during the summer.
For more information on the hospital or the nesting program, click here.