HAIKOU, March 11 (Xinhua) -- A large hawksbill turtle crawled slowly on the ground, followed closely by a nurse in white overalls who carefully applied medicine to its scarred carapace.
Such intensive care for a marine animal is commonplace at Blue Ocean Conservation and Rescue Center, a state-of-the-art hospital in China's island province of Hainan that specializes in treating and caring for marine animals.
Covering an area of over 3,000 square meters, the hospital has a whole set of advanced medical equipment, including large operating tables, gas anesthesia machines, dental clinics, blood analyzers and ultrasound machines.
"The unfortunate death of a whale prompted the establishment of the center," Yang Chunlei, head of the center, recalled with sadness.
In 2016, a pilot whale ran aground at a beach in Xiangshui Bay in Hainan's Lingshui County. An animal medical team rushed to the scene, but the whale died of respiratory failure despite a 20-hour rescue effort.
"If there had been a more professional treatment place and equipment in the local area, the tragedy could have been avoided," said Yang.
In February 2018, real estate company the R&F Group invested 40 million yuan (about 5.8 million U.S. dollars) to establish the marine animal conservation and rescue center. Since then, dozens of animals, including hawksbill turtles, green turtles and Chinese limulidae, have been treated and released back to the wild.
To provide the best medical and living conditions for the animals, the center was designed and built based on the industry's highest standard -- the Association of Zoos and Aquariums in the United States, according to Yang.
"At the center, we pay attention to every detail of the animals treated here: their daily diet, body temperature, health condition, even their mood," Yang said.
To ensure that the water quality in the center's pool reaches the first-class seawater quality, the center invested 30 million yuan (about 4.4 million dollars) to import from the United States a life support system, according to Yang.
With a combination of advanced facilities, a concept of valuing animal welfare, as well as close cooperation with international organizations such as the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the center has attracted a large number of animal experts from home and abroad to work there.
"By rescuing and treating animals and releasing them into the wild, the center has improved the protection of wild animals in the South China Sea and established a model of ecological civilization," said Steve Hearn, a British marine mammal specialist and an advisor at the center.
Apart from rescuing and treating animals, the center plans to establish a conservation fund, conduct species surveys and hold more lectures, aiming to raise more public awareness of animal protection, according to Yang.