Protecting our Natural Surroundings

by Kristie Seaman Anders

While you’re on the Sanibel-Captiva Islands, take a good look around. They’re beautiful! The lush green scenery blends spectacularly with the clean, sandy beaches and crystal blue water. Wildlife here is abundant and a joy to observe. However, all this beauty requires mindfulness, dedication, and hard work.

Laying the Foundation

In the 1930s, initial conservation efforts began under the leadership of Jay Norwood Darling. Under Darling’s urging, the state and federal government began protecting lands, and the Sanibel Refuge was established. In 1967, grassroots organizers incorporated as the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF), and dedicated themselves to the preservation of natural resources and wildlife habitat. Complementing the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s activities, the foundation began preserving precious freshwater wetlands, while the refuge purchased bayside mangrove habitat.

Since then, many people have dedicated their lives to the preservation of the islands. Skilled habitat managers have studied the land and needs of wildlife, steadily influencing the preserved lands to provide a place for river otters, bobcats, gopher tortoises, great egrets and more. Marine scientists conduct research and monitor the health of the waters that surround the islands. Educators help residents and visitors explore the islands and learn more about the world around them.

Continuing Efforts and Education

Educating future generations about the care of wildlife is vital to many species’ survival. The loggerhead turtle is a beloved visitor to the local beaches when it comes ashore to create a nest and lay its eggs. Because this majestic creature is endangered, its nests are protected by law. At the Ostego Bay Marine Science Center in Fort Myers Beach, visitors can see exhibits to learn more about how sea turtles hatch and scurry their way to the safer waters. The center also contains touch tanks and interactive displays that teach its guests about the local wildlife in a creative way.

The CROW Clinic (Center for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife) works endlessly to provide veterinary care for wounded or sick animals, nurse young creatures that have been orphaned or abandoned, educate the public as to how to protect and save wildlife, and perform vital clinical research aimed at bettering the lives of wildlife. Visitors are welcome to observe the hard work performed at the clinic and see some of the patients that have been helped by the staff’s infinite dedication. Admission benefits the CROW clinic and helps them to save countless lives.

Both adults and kids can learn new things while having a blast at the Sanibel Sea School. This non-profit organization has daily programs, weekly camps and wonderful activities that allow participants to engage with nature and some of its animals. Attend this “school” to get an intro or exploratory course into the amazing and fun surroundings on Sanibel Island.

The residents of Sanibel, Captiva, and Fort Myers Beach continually strive to maintain their beautiful environment for all to enjoy. Please help them in their efforts to keep this paradise beautiful and the creatures that live here, safe.