The Gumbo Limbo Environmental Complex, popularly referred to as the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, is a nature center in Boca Raton, Florida that is operated by the city in collaboration with the Friends of Gumbo Limbo (Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, Inc.) and the Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District. It is located at 1801 N. Ocean Blvd. in Boca Raton. Gumbo Limbo is located on a twenty-acre protected barrier island, which spans the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean. It is located on property that is part of the beachside-to-intracoastal Red Reef Park, however Gumbo Limbo does not have beachfront property (though it does have Intracoastal Waterway frontage). Its name is derived from the common name for the Bursera simaruba tree species found throughout the park.
The center features an indoor museum with exhibits, small aquariums, and a gift shop, in addition to several large outdoor facilities, including several large aquariums with ecosystems for fish, turtles, and other sea life, a boardwalk trail through adjacent woods with an observation tower, and a butterfly garden. The facility hosts events throughout the year, including observations of sea turtles during their nesting season. Volunteers from the surrounding community contribute considerably to the center’s operation and events.
Sea Turtle Conservation and Rehabilitation
Gumbo Limbo is well recognized for its work preserving marine turtles in the region. South Florida’s beaches provide a nesting ground for loggerhead, green, and leatherback sea turtles. Regrettably, every species of sea turtle that exists now is either vulnerable or endangered. Gumbo Limbo works in collaboration with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to conserve sea turtles in the region. Since the 1980s, the Boca Raton Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program at Gumbo Limbo Nature Center has employed a Marine Conservationist and Marine Turtle Specialist to monitor, document, and analyze sea turtle behavior along the municipal beach’s five kilometers. Additionally, this group handles complaints of turtles that are dead or wounded from the Boynton Beach Inlet to the Boca Raton/Deerfield Beach boundary.
Gumbo Limbo’s sea turtle conservation team has been assisting ill and wounded sea turtles in the Boca Raton region for over three decades. Gumbo Limbo built a rehabilitation clinic for injured turtles on campus in 2010 with the assistance of the City and Friend of Gumbo Limbo. The rehabilitation program’s objective is to cure turtles until they are capable of surviving in the wild. The rehabilitation clinic is one of only six in Florida that accept turtles suffering from Fibropapillomatosis. Fibropapillomatosis (FP) is associated with herpes virus strains. There is a connection between instances of FP and warm contaminated waters. Gumbo Limbo’s turtles with FP are primarily found in lagoons and bays around heavily urbanized regions. Fertilizers, pesticides, pet waste, and other contaminants are washed into the water, resulting in extremely poor water quality. FP is often manifested as benign cauliflower-like tumors. Tumors on the flippers can impair the turtle’s ability to swim, while tumors on the eyes and mouth impair the turtle’s ability to identify and consume food. At Gumbo Limbo, the tumors are surgically removed.
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