Holly West has traveled to nearly every ocean on this planet in her search to know more about sea turtles.
“I’ve done nesting leatherbacks. I’ve done in-water surveys. I’ve done some rehab” she said. “I’ve done a little bit of everything.”
That passion is what brought her to Sarasota nearly a decade ago. She leads the research at MOTE Marine Laboratory. This summer, she’s been busy.
“We’re helping them,” she said as she stuck a loggerhead hatchling with a needle full of fluids. “We’re going our little bit to get every one of them back on the beach. July alone we had 1,200 come through the hospital doors.”
The turtles in the MOTE hospital are being closely monitored after volunteers scooped them up off the neighboring beaches. Predators came and cracked the eggs shells while looking for the yolk to eat. Without that yolk in the shell, the turtle hatchlings would not get enough nourishment and would die.
“They are basically living dinosaurs,” said West. “They’ve been around since the time of the dinosaurs.”
Five of the world’s seven sea turtle species can be found off the Sarasota coastline. The most common is the loggerhead, which can grow to be over 200 pounds. Only one of every 1,000 hatchlings that makes it to the water will reach maturity.
The animals that West and her team rehabilitate are released on the same beaches on which they were found.
“Holly walks over, picks them up, just looks at them, she must whisper something. I don’t know what she says,” said MOTE intern Bri Douvris. “She has a connection. She puts them down and they crawl on off to the rest of their lives. It’s truly amazing.”
Her uncanny ability to get responses from turtles, coupled with her dedication to the species, earned West the playful nickname, “Turtle Whisperer”.
After all these years of spending every day with the animals, she has no plans to stop these endangered animals.
“Turtles are my thing. I’ll be working with them for a long time.”
MOTE DISCLAIMER: The On The Road story from 10News WTSP "features behind the scenes pictures/video at Mote Marine Laboratory. The sea turtle hatchling hospital provides medical care to rescued baby sea turtles before releasing them back to the ocean. MOTE has special permits to work with sea turtles. The public should never approach or touch sea turtles, which are protected by federal law".
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