The hospital shell-ebrated its grand opening this week.
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Zoo Miami Turtle
Credit: Zoo Miami

Good news for sick and injured Florida sea turtles: Zoo Miami officially opened its new Sea Turtle Hospital on Wednesday. 

The 1600 square-foot facility, built with help from Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, consists of five saltwater enclosures which will serve as "recovery beds" for up to 16 sea turtles. The Sea Turtle Hospital is located in a behind-the-scenes area across from the Zoo Miami Animal Hospital, and will eventually be accessible to the public through specially arranged tours. 

According to a Zoo Miami news release, this facility is the second Sea Turtle Hospital in Miami-Dade County, and the only one able to treat fibropapillomatosis, a potentially fatal disease which causes cauliflower-like tumors in sea turtles.

The Sea Turtle Hospital has actually been receiving patients for emergency treatments since April. The most notable is a 388-pound female loggerhead shark attack victim named "Baymax." The 50-year-old giant arrived several weeks ago laden with 100 eggs. She was induced then placed in a man-made nest for incubation by a team from the Miami-Dade County Sea Turtle Conservation Program. She required surgery to amputate what remained of her mangled front left flipper and has since been recovering well. The team hopes to release her within the next few weeks.

Florida waters are home to five species of sea turtles, all of which are classified as threatened or endangered. Nearly 90% of sea turtle nesting in the U.S. occurs on Florida beaches. Their greatest threats are pollution, improperly discarded fishing nets and lines, boat strikes, cold stress, threats to their nesting beaches, and fibropapillomatosis. 

Zoo Miami's new Sea Turtle Hospital will play an important role in caring for these gentle creatures, with the goal of rehabilitation and release back to the wild.