By Manjunath Pendakur
If you have ever seen a sea turtle, whether in person or on video, you’ll understand the profound beauty and magnificence of these animals. Sea turtles are not only wondrous creatures to watch, but they are also an indicator species. This means what happens to them in the near future will provide us with a greater understanding of the human impact on the environment and the animals that inhabit this planet.
That’s why Gumbo Limbo Coastal Stewards, a 501c3 nonprofit organization, which was initially formed to support the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center in Boca Raton, redefined its mission in 2010 to address the steadily increasing amount of sick and injured sea turtles in our area. We created the Sea Turtle Rehabilitation program and our key focus became the research, rescue, rehabilitation and release of sea turtles.
This advocacy for sea turtles and the rehabilitation program is made possible by Gumbo Limbo Coastal Stewards members, corporate partners, community partners and donors. Their generosity has enabled the Gumbo Limbo Coastal Stewards (formerly known as Friends of Gumbo Limbo) to fund veterinary services and equipment, provide the specific nutritional needs of the turtles, and dispense the medications required for our ailing turtles. The Gumbo Limbo Coastal Stewards have also provided funding for valuable sea turtle research as well as opportunities that create greater awareness for the cause, including our new Coastal Steward Youth Council, a gift store specializing in sustainable shopping, academic scholarships and our ongoing research partnerships.
In recent news, the Gumbo Limbo Coastal Stewards are moving forward to take over the responsibilities and funding that we had historically shared with the city of Boca Raton and the Greater Boca Raton Beach & Park District. This transition was first considered at the request of the city because our Sea Turtle Rehabilitation program has grown beyond the scope of typical government services. Since then, all constituencies have agreed with expansion of Gumbo Limbo Coastal Stewards’ role.
Over the last few months, our team has been working with the city to ensure a smooth transition. While this transition was scheduled to take place over the next 18 months, the process was recently sped up because of a few personnel changes at the city. During this time, the city is also completing a $3.2 million sea water pump project, in addition to other improvements at the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center.
As a result, for the time being, with the assistance of the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, our sea turtles were recently relocated to other local facilities in the interest of their continued safety and care. This move is only temporary and we look forward to welcoming the sea turtles back to Gumbo Limbo when we have the staff and facilities necessary to provide best-in-class care. We look forward to announcing both our new Gumbo Limbo Coastal Stewards team members and the anticipated date of return of the sea turtles soon!
While the Sea Turtle Rehab program and related facilities are currently closed, visitors are welcome to visit the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, aquariums, nature trails and sustainable gift store, and participate in a variety of educational programs taking place in the coming weeks and months. The city of Boca Raton and the Greater Boca Raton Beach & Park District are also continuing to fund the sea turtle conservation team that goes out each morning to monitor and document what is happening with the nests during nesting season. The activity on our beaches in fact already started this week with the sea turtles arriving.
My colleagues and I on the Gumbo Limbo Coastal Stewards Board are excited for our future and are proud of our organization and its fantastic work, led by President and CEO John Holloway. We are 100% focused on the Gumbo Limbo Coastal Stewards’ mission, which is to fund and support the rehabilitation of injured sea turtles, and to create greater awareness and understanding of the environmental issues faced along our coastal and marine environment. We welcome you to join us!
Manjunath Pendakur, PhD, is chair of the Gumbo Limbo Coastal Stewards Board of Trustees. Learn more about the Gumbo Limbo Coastal Stewards and how to get involved at www.gumbolimbo.org. This opinion piece was originally published by the Sun Sentinel, which is a media partner of The Invading Sea