Lampedusa is the southernmost island of Italy and Europe, actually closest to the African continent. The beautiful turquoise waters are a stark contrast to the arid, desert-like landscape and villages. This is where our Association set up the Rescue Center more than 30 years ago, supporting the actions of the Sea Turtle Program of WWF Italy.
The first location of the Lampedusa Turtle Rescue was spacious with a beautiful garden for the sea turtles tanks where to care of animals brought by fishermen and locals. It wasn’t a convenient location– being far from the sea, it was difficult to pump seawater to. >In 2009 the Center moved to the Stazione Marittima, a building anymore utilized by the Italian Coast Guard, which was located in the entrance of the port and enabled easy access for visitors and fisherman. In February 2020 the Center moved in the far south east of the island, hosted in the Lampedusa Acquacolture: the site offers space to accommodate special tanks where turtles can be cared for and shown to visitors and fishermen for educational purpose without any disturbance. In a separate building there are hosted the lab and surgery room. During the summer months, the Center is open to the public from 17:00-19:00 Monday-Saturday. Please check our social media for accurate times and to arrange a visit in the winter months.
The Rescue Center hosts approximately 200 turtles annually, most of which are accidentally captured by fishermen. Others are brought from the WWF teams in other parts of Sicily, tourists or local residents. All efforts are supported by the Guardia Costiera (Coast Guard), Carabinieri and Guardia di Finanza (Italian police).
The Rescue Center relies on volunteer efforts to carry out their main objectives. Upon arriving, you can see our resident turtles (read more), learn about veterinary activity, sustainability, the Mediterranean ocean ecosystems, and meet our wonderful Italian and international volunteers. You may hear stories of efforts and difficulties, as well as huge recovery success from the efforts of biologists, conservationists, and veterinarians alike.
The turtles that we have encountered and treated have suffered from various problems or injuries that were connected with human interaction. For example, some risked loosing all of their flippers due to entanglement in fishing lines, others nearly drowned as a result of malnutrition caused by digestive obstruction from plastic, and some suffered from lung infections caused by pollution. Thanks to our hardworking team and groups coordinated by Daniela Freggi and with the precious advises of Prof. A Di Bello of the Vet Dept of the University of Bari, almost all of the turtles here are able to receive the attention they need with full recoveries which enable them to return to the sea.
Surgeries are performed after diagnostic radiography, ultrasound, and preliminary blood tests. Our surgery success rate is high, but it is rather difficult to diagnose exactly the problems of these ancient animals, due to the lack of research performed on them. The field is constantly learning how to better treat and help sea turtles with new methods and data. Surgery for sea turtles is as precise and delicate as with any other species. Most commonly hooks and lines are extracted or infections and injuries are treated. Veterinarians use approprated anesthesia pprotocols for any individual animal and after the surgery all sea turtles go back to their tank.
One surgical method dused at our Center and developed by the Prof. di Bello is infinitely helpful in reaching the digestive tract without opening the plastron. An incision is made on the soft ventral parts near the flippers in order to extract the organs that are the focus of the operation. The procedure requires precision and the maintenance of pressure and internal conditions on the extracted organs to keep the turtle alive. When the operation is complete the turtle can be brought back to her tank. Antibiotic treatments are immediately administered, and observed closely following the procedure. Most operations are stressful and tense, but the payoff is immense. This is why the Center continues to accept new patients, with the valuable help of fishermen, sailors, volunteers and scientists.
Welcome to the center!
The Veterinarian Center