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Meet Sweet Pea the Sea Turtle

Sweet Pea, a rehabilitated but unreleasable green sea turtle Photo: Carrie Stevenson, UF IFAS Extension

Northwest Florida is lucky to have people and organizations who look out for the best interest of our wildlife.

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One of those organizations is the Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center (NBSTCC). The NBSTCC is an educational facility for residents, visitors, and schoolchildren to learn about sea turtle conservation.

The center also deploys rescue volunteers to save and aid in the rehabilitation of hundreds of trapped and injured turtles. While they do not perform long-term rehab, they can temporarily house them until a facility is available.

A dozen rescue personnel are on standby day and night to aid in saving these turtles.

Currently, the facility is the permanent home to a young green sea turtle named Sweet Pea. She was discovered with two major injuries; entanglement in a net or fishing line that led to the amputation of a fin, and a missing chunk of her carapace from a boat strike. She is not a full-grown adult but has a life expectancy of more than 70 years. Due to some internal injuries, she is fed a diet of turtle jello, flavored with seagrass, squid, and fish.

A display of several species of sea turtles, bones, and products made from the animals before they were given protected status. Photo credit: Carrie Stevenson, UF IFAS Extension

In addition to a large pool for Sweet Pea, the NBSTCC has several exhibits on marine debris, diamondback terrapins, lionfish, reefs, and the history of sea turtle consumption and hunting.

Outdoors, two large rescued exotic tortoises (former pets) have their own habitats and are included as part of the educational tour. More than 40 volunteers, along with permanent staff, keep the center running. Thanks to an IMPACT 100 grant, the center is expanding.

The new addition will have a dedicated area to house injured sea turtles until they move to a rehabilitation center. The habitat will be separated by glass to protect the turtles, but allow visitors to see them.

Sea Turtle Center hours. Photo credit: Carrie Stevenson, UF IFAS Extension

The Sea Turtle Conservation Center is open to visitors Tuesday through Saturday from 10 am to 4 pm. Private tours can be arranged before the center opens to the public.

This post was written together with Carrie Stevenson, Coastal Sustainability Agent IV UF IFAS Escambia Extension.