It was difficult getting McKayla to eat. McKayla, a rescued sea turtle residing at the Archelon Sea Turtle Protection Society of Greece, is recovering from critical injuries, and will stay at the Archelon Center until she is well enough to return to the sea.
My name is Kenlei Cowell and I am a public relations major at the¬†University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee¬†studying on the Summer 2013 voyage.¬†I met McKayla during a during a recent trip to Glyfada when 20¬†MV Explorer passengers visited the sea turtle conservation center on our second day in Greece. During our visit, we not only learned the mission of Archelon, but we also received hands-on training in feeding the turtles.
The mission of Archelon is to:
- Protect sea turtles and their habitats in Greece
- Monitor, research, develop and implement management plans for habitat restoration and rehabilitation of sick and injured turtles
- Raising public awareness
The center relies on a network of over 500 volunteers and donations to keep the facility running. For five dollars a day one recovering sea turtle can live comfortably at the Archelon Society. With 30 turtles currently living at the center, the volunteers need $150 a day to maintain a healthy environment.
Fortunately, the center receives help from all over the world. Volunteers can apply to work for short periods of time, with some dedicating a month or more to living at the facility and working with the turtles every day.
Since Greek laws prohibit permanent structures from being built near the beach, the Archelon headquarters is made up of donated 1947 English train cars that do not need a permanent foundation.
During our two hour tour of the Archelon center, Pablo Tsaros, manager of the facility, shared a great deal of information on endangered sea turtle species. In particular, we focused on loggerhead sea turtles, found around the Greek coastlines, and how to improve their chance of species survival.
After Joanna Myles, a marine biology major at South Hampton University in England and a summer volunteer at Archelon, demonstrated how to cut and prepare the food for each turtle, SAS participants were then given the chance to hand feed a recovering loggerhead.
Joanna walked me to McKayla’s tank where I was given a yogurt pale filled with squid and a pair of metal tongs. After spending several minutes waving a piece of squid in front of her mouth, the injured turtle finally began to eat. She even tried to devour the tongs I accidentally dropped in her tank.
Although my time with McKayla was brief, I bonded with the large reptile. We have both been yearning to journey through the Mediterranean, both hungry for the safety of the coastline.¬† Not only do I feel empathy for these creatures, but I now realize that we are connected.
“I have never been so happy to be covered in squid,” said Jessica Davis of the University of Virginia. She too was affected by her visit to Archelon. Before heading back to the MV Explorer, she sponsored a baby sea turtle and named it Squirt.