$100K Challenge to Open Cape Marine Animal Hospital for Stranding Season

A collapsed roof forced the demolition of the National Marine Life Center’s old warehouse hospital, creating a large gap in treatment capacity for stranded marine animals on the Cape. But thanks to generous donors, help is on the way in the form of a $100K challenge grant to open a brand new marine animal hospital this fall on Main Street, Buzzards Bay at the gateway to Cape Cod.

Spring may be in the air, but for marine animals in Cape Cod Bay, the deadly fall stranding season lies just around the corner.  As certain as autumn’s first frost, the rarest sea turtles in the world will wash ashore each November, cold-stunned and near death. Add in beached porpoises, dolphins and pilot whales and these events make this area the most active stranding hotspot in the Americas.

Volunteers Jim and Ann Marie know this challenge first hand.  They have nursed the most seriously ill marine animals back to health.  They have bailed water from the leaky roof, hauled buckets of sea water into makeshift tanks, fed hungry critters … and cleaned up after them, too.  And they have witnessed the ultimate rescuers’ joy of restoring life to the ocean as a rehabbed turtle like Lavender slips back into the sea.


Rehabbed Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle “Lavender”

Jim and Ann Marie want the animal hospital to open in time for the fall stranding season and they’re backing that hope with a $100,000 challenge grant.  They pledge to match any new donation of $500 or more between now and August 10th, up to $50,000 … for a grand total of $100,000. That’s the precise sum needed to open the new hospital’s doors on October 30th with a sea turtle rehabilitation suite just in time to receive patients from the fall 2009 stranding season on Cape Cod.

B.C. (Before Collapse), dedicated staff and volunteers labored in challenging conditions (leaky roof, no heat, inadequate plumbing) to provide the best medical care for patients.  They rehabbed scores of endangered and threatened marine animals, including 19 of the rarest sea turtles in the world, and returned them to the wild to revitalize vanishing populations.  After the roof collapsed, the NMLC sped up plans to build a new hospital in discrete, affordable “waves” of increasing capabilities.

As the first wave, the center’s Life Support Building delivered the very heart of the marine animal hospital to pump life-sustaining salt water directly from Cape Cod Canal into patient’s pools and tanks. The second wave, now under construction, will raise the hospital building itself, as well as supporting infrastructure and treatment facilities for sea turtles and seals. The third wave will equip the hospital with pools and medical facilities to care for dolphins, porpoises and small whales; the only facility of its type in the entire region. Each wave is pegged at $1.5M and delivers increasing levels of critical treatment capacity. The NMLC is currently engaged in a capital campaign to acquire $1.5M funding for the final wave of hospital construction to be completed in 2010.

For now, Jim, Ann Marie and the entire NMLC team of staff, volunteers and supporters eagerly await patients to be admitted to this one-of-a-kind marine animal hospital in November, when that final $100K is raised to wrap-up the last few details. The NMLC Discovery Center opens for the summer season during Memorial Day Weekend and offers a chance to learn more about marine animals and the hospital’s rescue and rehabilitation activities, while checking out the progress of hospital construction. If you can’t visit in person, frequent postings on the NMLC web site, www.nmlc.org, tell the story of the new marine animal hospital and its many interesting patients.

For information about donations to the National Marine Life Center marine animal hospital call   (508) 743-9888   or visit the NMLC web site at www.nmlc.org.