Aquarium Saves Turtles Suffering from Cold

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9 Dec 2023 4:00 AM

As temperatures drop across the Northeast a large number of sea turtles are becoming "hypothermic" or "cold-stunned" off the coast of Massachusetts in the cold ocean waters. The New England Aquarium is now treating the sea turtles that have washed ashore and are in critical condition.

According to the New England Aquarium "The turtles began to strand on Cape Cod in early November. Staff and volunteers from Massachusetts Audubon Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary have been walking the beaches along Cape Cod Bay in search of cold-stunned turtles and transporting the animals to the Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Hospital in Quincy, MA, where they are treated for life-threatening medical conditions resulting from hypothermia and the inability to feed."

This is not uncommon for late Fall and early Winter due to changing water and temperature patterns. The natural geography of Cape Cod (a hook shape) can mean sea turtles get trapped in Massachusetts bay and unable to swim south into warmer ocean waters. According to the aquarium, "in an unusual occurrence, five cold-stunned sea turtles have washed ashore in Hull and Hingham this season, which could indicate that more turtles in Massachusetts Bay are inhabiting a wider range of locations."

This season the New England Aquarium has treated 214 sea turtles: 189 critically endangered Kemp’s ridley turtles, 19 green turtles, and six loggerheads. Treatment includes exams, bloodwork and x-rays to treat dehydration, pneumonia and potential fractures. The goal is release the turtles back into the ocean but treatment can take weeks or months depending on the severity of their condition.

After the initial injuries are treated, staff at the New England Aquarium work with partners to move turtles to other aquariums and rescue facilities, including in North Carolina and Washington, D.C.. The turtles are transported by ground or by air, through the non-profit "Turtles Fly Too" where volunteer pilots transport the sea turtles to other facilities.

For the full press release from the New England Aquarium, click here.

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