Brian Anton volunteered at the ORP Rescue Centre for a month, and it was a very eventful month indeed! He recommends anyone who loves traveling, animal medicine, and sea turtles to take advantage of this opportunity to volunteer with sea turtles. Here is Brian:
A Passion for Reptiles and a 30 Hour Journey
For as long as I can remember, I have had a passion for reptiles. So when I heard about an opportunity to volunteer at a sea turtle rescue center in the Maldives, I jumped at it! After a short application and a few emails, I had made plans to travel to the other side of the world to help turtles that had been caught in nets drifting across the Indian ocean.
After months of anticipation, it finally came time to go volunteer. I remember stepping off the sea plane which brought me to the island where I would be staying for the next month. It felt as if I had arrived on another planet! This was probably due to the 30 hours of traveling it took to get there and the associated lack of sleep, but the surreal feeling was also a result of my overwhelming excitement. Not long after my arrival, I was introduced to the team, settled in, and ready to get to work!
A Future Vet Gets Some Practice In
At the turtle rescue center, I was able to learn so much about these amazing marine reptiles. Here I could get hands on through feedings, wound treatments, therapy swims, and even surgeries! I was particularly keen to help out with every medical procedure I possibly could, since I had recently been admitted into a veterinary program back home.
Dr. Claire, the turtle veterinarian, was more than happy to answer my numerous questions and taught me so much about the challenges of working with exotic species (especially when on an island!). More than anything she showed me just how important, exciting, and rewarding a career in rehabilitation medicine is!
One Unbelievable Experience After Another
When I wasn’t busy learning new things about turtle medicine, biology, and ecology – I was soaking up one unbelievable experience after another. I will never forget what it felt like to witness a rehabilitated turtle swimming off and fading into the blue during a release. Neither will I forget seeing an enormous green turtle burying her eggs or watching little hatchlings crawl out the sand and across the beach to the sea.
Some of my favorite moments came from working with a leucistic (partial lack of pigmentation) green turtle named Cloud. Simply seeing an adult turtle with this condition is already incredibly rare, but having had the chance to care for one was really special. It is likely I will never have a similar experience again in my life and to me that makes it so cool!
Exploring Underwater Maldives
Of course, being that I am from the Midwestern United States, I was obligated to take full advantage of everything that life on the island had to offer.
Just about every day during my time off, I would go free-diving with my new friend Sam (the intern at the time). I also found opportunities to go on numerous dives and snorkeling trips which allowed me to appreciate the natural beauty of the local reefs.
Time passed quickly and before I knew it, the entire month was coming to an end. While I was sad to leave, I felt really good about what I had accomplished in such a short amount of time. In the end, my experience at the rescue center is something that will always be close to my heart.
I am so glad to have been able to help injured turtles, to have learned so much about them, to have gained relevant career experience, and to have made new friends! Perhaps in the future I will find myself echoing Dr. Claire and working with turtles somewhere new as a veterinarian myself.
I would recommend anyone who loves traveling, animal medicine, and sea turtles to definitely take advantage of this opportunity too – I certainly know that I will be back again someday!