Starting in 1978 with a handful of volunteers and a C.E.T.A. grant, The Marine Mammal Stranding Center is a private, non-profit organization. Founder Robert Schoelkopf and his wife, Sheila Dean, along with a small paid staff and volunteers with a wide variety of talents and professional backgrounds, continue to work with the animals. Originally based in Gardner’s Basin in the inlet section of Atlantic City, the Center is now located on the barrier island of Brigantine, which borders coastal New Jersey’s largest wildlife refuge.
When we arrived for a tour of the facilities, there was a lone seal who was paralyzed in his back flipper and would be heading to live a cushy life in an aquarium as he was no match for nature. A few weeks back, a giant sea turtle was being cared for and has since been released back into the ocean.
Working with state and federal government permits, they have responded to over 4,500 strandings of whales, dolphins, seals and sea turtles that have washed ashore over the years. Sometimes the center is occasionally called upon to assist with animals in other states.
The center touts a little gift shop with all sorts of marine life mounted to the ceiling and walls as well as informational documents sprinkled about the store. A huge TV screen with live feed of the lone seal swimming about is to protect the animals from human contact. All these animals are wild and therefore need to be treated that way, Sheila stressed.
All funding comes through donations, grants, memberships, and fundraising efforts. Since there is no permanent funding at this time, donations and membership dollars are vital. Support will help the facility to expand and to care for the increasing number of animals. Without assistance, these creatures have little hope of survival or rehabilitation. The next donation events scheduled are below and on their adorable Facebook page as well.
To join or receive further information, please contact the Membership Secretary, Marine Mammal Stranding Center, PO Box 773, Brigantine, NJ 08203. Telephone: (609) 266-0538. Email: email@example.com