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World-class diets, prepared with love and expertise, help our animals grow, heal, and live their best possible lives. Your generous support makes this possible. We’re asking you to support your Zoo with a gift to provide a “magical meal” to an animal this holiday season and beyond. If you’re able to give, every donation counts. Visit BrevardZoo.org/Magic to make this holiday season magical for our Zoo. 

When we don’t feel well, we might not have much of an appetite, but often our doctors’ advice remains the same: eat to keep your strength up. This mantra is no different for the sick and injured patients of our Sea Turtle Healing Center, Brevard Zoo’s behind-the-scenes rehabilitation facility for rescued sea turtles.  

Loggerhead sea turtle on table

Sea turtle Harley appeared very emaciated during their intake exam.

Whatever their ailment, recovery for our patients begins with good nutrition. When Harley the loggerhead sea turtle arrived at our Healing Center in July 2019 emaciated, with sunken eyes, and covered in barnacles, our team knew a robust diet would be an important piece of their care plan—and that there was no time to waste. 

Harley initially refused food, but through hard work and lots of patience, our Healing Center staff were able to get them eating again. Treated to a healthful feast of protein-rich seafoods such as squid, crab, and even lobster, Harley’s strength began to come back. 

When they came to us, Harley weighed just 56 pounds. After less than a month of our magical meals, they had gained more than eight pounds! 

To encourage natural foraging behaviors—a skill needed for Harley to thrive in the open ocean—we made mealtime a little more exciting by serving their diets in a big orange feeder ball. Not only did Harley enjoy chasing the ball all around their tank, but they had to work much harder to reach the food inside, building their stamina and persistence. 

In the end, the magic of a nutritious diet was the secret recipe to getting Harley fully recovered and ready to return home to the ocean. After five months at our Healing Center, the loggerhead was eating four percent of their body weight each day, proving they were ready to make their journey back into the big blue. 

Harley was released just south of Sebastian Inlet in Vero Beach weighing 75 pounds, nearly 20 pounds heavier than when they arrived, on December 19, 2019—just in time for the holidays!