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Angela plans her next creation.

Angela Shaw has been a volunteer at the Zoo since 2015, working with the Sea Turtle Healing Center team to help rehabilitate sick and injured sea turtles. Angela was performing her typical volunteer duties at the Healing Center until one day in summer 2016, when a manager showed her a photo of an enrichment device made from PVC and asked, “can you make this?”

Before then, Angela had never made anything out of PVC. In fact, she’d never even heard of the material! But her commitment to patient wellness encouraged Angela to begin creating “toys” using this material. These devices stimulate the sea turtles by encouraging natural behaviors like foraging for food or rubbing against coral.


foraging mat

This mat sits at the bottom of the tank and allows patients to feed as they would in the ocean.

Angela, humorously called the “PVC Queen” by her fellow volunteers, loves watching the sea turtles interact with the items she creates. One, called an “itchy,” hangs into the patients’ tanks and allows them to rub against, climb on and crawl under multiple PVC pipes. Just one itchy device takes an average of three to four hours to create, most of which Angela does right out of her home. “You should see my garage,” she jokes.

Her creations soon expanded beyond enrichment. Devices such as hooks that can suspend IV bags from the ceiling, tank dividers and a cart for rolling larger patients down the beach upon release have proven critical in the rehabilitation process.

Because PVC doesn’t rust, leach or resemble a sea turtle food source, it is the perfect material for these creations. The patients seem to love it, too! Thank you, Angela, for all of your hard work and dedication to the wellbeing of our sea turtle patients.