If you ever find yourself in the Sarasota/Siesta Key area, you should definitely take the time to visit Mote Marine and Save our Seabirds. Being as they are situated right next to each other on City Island, they make an excellent day trip. Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium is a research and conservation-driven organization that has been in operation since 1955. Today, they have two adjacent facilities that house a huge variety of marine animals including sharks, manatees, rays, river otters, sea turtles, eels, and all manner of tropical marine fish, crustaceans, and cephalopods. Their research and conservation efforts are organized across the globe. Joel and I have been here several times now, so I only took a few pictures that really don’t do justice to the enormity of Mote’s facilities. There are so many critters that are just too fun to watch!
Save Our Seabirds is a non-profit organization dedicated to conserving and educating people about the various bird species of Florida and the tropics. While many of their birds are rescued, rehabilitated, and released, their outdoor maze of bird habitats in the Wild Bird Learning Center also stands as a home for over 150 birds that have been too badly hurt to survive in the wild. These birds are cared for with your $10 entry fee (only $5 if you show them your ticket stub from Mote) and act as ambassadors for their wild brethren.
Many of the birds who are housed here (temporarily or permanently) suffer from injuries due to the following:
1) being struck by cars
2) becoming entangled in fishing lines, trash, or other man-made debris
3) falling victim to human cruelty
Though there are plaques posted on each of the exhibits, the staff also give you a sheet that listed the injuries of the resident birds. We were surprised to learn that egrets, especially, are prone to being injured by flying golf balls since they often reside on our near golf courses. We were horrified to read that one pelican had his top bill hacked off by an angry fisherman. The sad fact is that humans are capable of doing so much damage to the natural world even without even trying. And, while it’s sad to see these birds in cages (though they are clean and well-designed), 99% of them are there because of humans.
Many humans will decry zoos and other institutions about animal captivity, but to be honest, I think without these animal ambassadors, many people wouldn’t stop to think about how their everyday actions affect the species with which we share this planet. Until we start to make a conscious effort to both reduce our ecological impact and accept our responsibility as caretakers of this world, intuitions like Save Our Seabirds and Mote Marine Aquarium are necessary. Few life lessons are learned as well as those taught through personal experience. With any luck, these up-close encounters with the wild world will touch hearts as well as minds, and cause visitors to become activists.