The turtle sanctuary on Sanibel Island, Florida

Crow Wildlife Center on Sanibel Island

The turtle sanctuary on Sanibel Island

Animal welfare in the USA is an individual matter! On Sanibel Island you take it very seriously. Not only that the bird sanctuary - the "Ding" Darling Wildlife Refuge goes back to the initiative of a man, namely the cartoonist "Ding" Darling. No, near the sanctuary is CROW, the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife, a kind of rehabilitation center for wild animals that have been injured. This is where the turtle sanctuary is located on Sanibel Island. On an area of ​​around four hectares of land there are treatment rooms and enclosures in which birds, raccoons, opossums and turtles are nursed back to health. Then you release them back into nature. Ecotourism Offers in Florida offer opportunities to take a look behind the scenes.

The CROW Wildlife Center

Like so many projects of this type in the United States, CROW started as a result of individual initiatives. In 1968, Shirley Walter, a Sanibel Island resident, found a tern that was injured by a car. Because she couldn't find a facility to take care of the animal, she took it home. She told the story to her friends. It didn't take long for a group of volunteers to come together. They are dedicated to helping wildlife. This is how CROW developed into a turtle sanctuary. CROW was founded and in the first year of its history more than 500 calls for help were received.


"Substitute mother" for young animals in the turtle sanctuary
“Substitute mother” for young animals in the turtle sanctuary


Who finances the turtle sanctuary?

The money for CROW comes in through the entrance fees of the visitors in the Visitor Information Center. Visitors can find out more about the work of the project there. There are events that raise money for the upkeep of the facility. There are members whose contributions help to keep the organization alive. And every year a new decision is made as to whether money will flow from the state treasury. The size of the facility shows how successful these measures are. But you can also see it in the fact that you have to generate more than a million dollars a year to keep the project alive. With success!


With this "substitute heart" one simulates a mother animal in the turtle sanctuary
With this "substitute heart" one simulates a mother animal in the turtle sanctuary


Who works in the turtle sanctuary?

The staff at CROW consists partly of veterinarians and veterinarians who are permanently employed. There is also a program for veterinary students who do an internship here. In this way you will gain experience in dealing with wild animals. The students come from the USA, but also from abroad. A year ago, Steve Greenstein, the director of CROW, explains, there were 36 students on the project. These do this on a voluntary basis. They stay here for several weeks to six months and receive accommodation and food in exchange for their support in the project.

The CROW Veterinary Clinic

Today CROW has a veterinary clinic where the animals are treated. They are nursed back to health until they are able to survive in nature again. Rachel Rainbolt, who is responsible for educational tasks for the animal welfare project, tells us: “The animals stay with us for four to five weeks before we release them. But there are also animals that can no longer look after themselves. For example, we have two ospreys who have been with us for years. We have integrated them into our rehabilitation program. They take care of osprey pups who arrive injured. In doing so, they teach them behavior that is typical of their kind. Only then do we release them again. "


Local supermarkets donate lettuce and vegetables
Supermarkets donate lettuce to the turtle sanctuary


Commitment to wildlife

The extent to which the people of Sanibel Island are committed to the protection of wild animals was shown in 2004, when Hurricane Charley devastated Sanibel Island. He destroyed the student accommodation. The islanders opened their doors to the students. In this way they ensured the continued existence of the facility. Today the students live in a building that was built for them. The fact that the commitment to the turtle sanctuary has now reached the island administration is made clear by a provision that applies on Sanibel Island. Then it is all “lights off from 22.00 p.m.”. This is to prevent light from luring the gopher turtles from the sea into the interior of the island. There it is particularly threatened by car traffic during the tourist season.


The Healing Winds Visitor Education Center
The Healing Winds Visitor Education Center in the turtle sanctuary


A visit to the turtle sanctuary

Anyone interested in the CROW project and the turtle sanctuary is very welcome. The visitor center is located at 3883 Sanibel Captiva Road (tel. 239 - 472 3644). With the help of case studies, film reports about the treatment of the animals and about the project, you can find out how to deal with the wild animals here.

Antje Gerstenecker has Sanibel Island as a paradise for shell seekers discovered.


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Source The turtle sanctuary: research on site with the support of CROW

Text The turtle sanctuary: © Copyright Monika Fuchs
Photos The turtle sanctuary: © Copyright Monika Fuchs

The turtle sanctuary on Sanibel Island, Florida
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