Last year the Amos Rehabilitation Keep (ARK) in Port Aransas took a direct hit from Hurricane Harvey. It was the first direct hit by a hurricane since it was established in the 1980s.
The massive storm caused millions of dollars of damage to the ARK.
More than 80 percent of the ARK was damaged during the hurricane.
“The estimated damages here at the university are about $45 million, and we are meeting those challenges through a number of ways; insurance, FEMA, and grant sources,” University of Texas Marine Science Institute communications coordinator Sally Palmer said.
Although the ARK is not completely back to normal, employees are able to care for the injured birds and turtles, a task that seemed impossible only 12 months ago.
“The number of animals really fluctuates depending on the circumstances,” Palmer said. “For birds, we can bring in anywhere from 600-1,200 a year. And sea turtles, this year to date, we have rehabilitated more than 700. A lot of those numbers were because we had a large cold stun event in January.”
The plan is to have the ARK facilities, now 80 percent completed, looking like new by springtime.
“There is light at the end of the tunnel.” Palmer said. ” We are making good progress and hope to get the campus open to the public this spring.”
Despite the slow rebuilding process, there have been several improvements made, and many more on the way. Now, more volunteers and fundraising ideas are needed to help complete the project.
“It takes a lot of money and support to feed and rehabilitate these animals,” Palmer said. “Saying that, we have received a tremendous amount of support from the community, our advisory council, and from other local organizations as well as grant opportunities to bring the ARK back up to speed.”
Among specific plans include:
- Rescue and rehabilitate marine birds and turtles found sick or injured from the coastal zone of Mustang Island and St. Joseph Island.
- Release those animals that recover back to their native habitat.
- Educate the public about local wildlife and human impacts on our coastal area.
- Increase knowledge through association with veterinarians and professional societies of how to treat, house, and release animal patients using current wildlife rehabilitation techniques.
- Improve facilities so that we turtles and birds can be hosted year-round, independent of seasonal climate changes.
The ARK also deals with stranded (dead) sea turtles and marine mammals through its long association with the national and state stranding networks (Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network [STSSN] and the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network [TMMSN]).
Care for injured coastal marine birds and turtles. This job is rewarding, but tough. If you love coastal critters and don’t mind cleaning cages, doing laundry, and cutting up fish then the ARK is the place for you.
The University of Texas Marine Science Institute Phone: 361-749-6711