Creating a Haven for the Creatures of the Florida Keys


Taken by: John D. Ivanko/

Taken by: John D. Ivanko/

As my family drove our rental car along the unfamiliar Florida highways, I looked out the window. When we arrived where we staying, I got out of the car.  I stood still and the animals popped out. It revealed to me that you have to slow down to truly see nature at it’s fullest. You see more of nature in the middle of a hiking trail, standing still, than driving by.  What really struck me when I got out of the car was the sheer diversity of the plants and animals surrounding me. In the marina behind our rental house, there were pelicans, cormorants, anoles and so much more. It was not only the diversity of animals but also the diversity of plants that amazed me. I saw everything from coconut trees to mangroves (and in the rental next to us they even had a cactus).  Filled with this wonder of the nature surrounding me, I slept that night with my dreams filled with amazing plants and animals. The next morning my parents woke me up and we went out to an island. As we sped our boat out to the island, I looked in the water and I saw nothing. As I looked at the island from a distance, I saw no living animals. But as soon as I got off our boat and slowed down, it was like my vision had changed.  There were pelicans in the mangroves and anoles climbing around and little Sergeant Major fish swimming around the shallows of our island.  I learned from my trip to Florida that to enjoy something to its fullest, you have to slow down.  Just like eating chocolate bars, you slow down to get the deep flavors.


Unfortunately, some animals in this amazing ecosystem have problems:

• Turtles

The turtles have problems because a large part of a turtle’s diet is jelly fish. A turtle can very easily mistake a plastic bag for a jelly fish and eat the bag and then have stomach problems and possibly die.

• Cormorants

Cormorants are a small, one-and-a-half-foot tall bird (only slightly larger that a duck) . It waddles along road in search of food.  A hungry cormorant is a determined one. If it spots a fish in a pond across the road, the cormorant will waddle across the road only to be hit by a car.  Since cormorants are so short, drivers can’t see them and accidentally hit them.  I learned a lot about what I know about cormorants from Kelly Grinter, founder of the Marathon Wild Bird Center.

• Gulls

Gulls are a nuisance to fisherman because they eat the bait off of their fishing poles. Some fishermen get mad and throw rocks at the gulls. The stone could cause serious damage. Gulls also swallow hooks and fishing line from fishing poles when they steal the fish.

But there are people and organizations out there that are working to help these poor injured animals.  The Marathon Turtle Hospital is located on Marathon Key in Florida.  They work to help turtles that have been injured in the wild.  They have an operating room, a physical therapy room and even a lab. They save over a hundred turtles every year. Not content with just saving turtles, they also give lots of educational programs to help people understand how to protect turtles.

It’s not just turtles that people are working to help. The Marathon Wild Bird Center is working to help heal injured birds. Kelly Grinter and her volunteer staff are constantly working to help get these injured birds back into the wild.

But you can also help make life a safer place for these animals!  Just doing simple things like picking up trash and using reusable water bottles can save an amazing animal’s life.  If you are a fisherman, and you have broken fishing line, be sure to dispose of the line properly so it does not end up in the water.

If we all work together we can create a safe haven for the amazing creatures of the Florida Keys and animals everywhere!

Liam is eleven years old and lives in Wisconsin. He likes to read books and go on adventures with his friends. He also likes to have fun with his family. Liam enjoys exploring nature, writing about it and, most of all, helping protect it.


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