CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The South Carolina Aquarium says they are having to make budget cuts in their sea turtle care center because of a serious loss in revenue during the pandemic.
The aquarium says their Sea Turtle Rehab Center is the only one in the state, and now they won’t be able to provide winter care for any sea turtles from out-of-state.
South Carolina Aquarium Spokesperson Josh Zalabak says normally during the winter months, the aquarium takes in about 10 to 20 injured or sick sea turtles from the colder climates.
Zalabak says it’s something that other aquariums in the Northeast depend on when they get overwhelmed by low temperatures this time of year.
These turtles are often cold stunned, meaning they didn’t migrate south fast enough.
This year, Zalabak says the aquarium can’t afford to care for them since costs include transportation, medical bills and food while they’re here. Zalabak says they then have to pay for transportation to Florida when the time comes.
In a similar trend of financially forced cutbacks, the aquarium says they also had to dial back or eliminate some of their education programs.
However, because of a new campaign launched in September, Zalabak says he hopes they’ve made it through the worst of the cuts. The aquarium says their ‘Our World Without Campaign’ was specifically designed to prevent losing any more programs.
“We certainly, as the only rehab center in South Carolina, wouldn’t want to cut back any further because those sea turtles need somewhere to go,” Zalabak says. “They are still going to be sick and injured and need care. So that would be tough.”
The aquarium says they recently hit the halfway point of their $1.6 million campaign goal. Had they not launched this campaign however, Zalabak says they would’ve had to close the sea turtle care center.
Zalabak says they are now cautiously optimistic with the money they’ve raised so far, as long as they are able to raise the other half of their goal before March.
For those on the hunt for a good holiday gift, one idea could be a virtual field trip for a classroom. The aquarium says they are $150 for a tour for the full classroom and a great way to help save the aquarium.