The New England Aquarium is treating more than 150 sea turtles at a special facility after the animals became hypothermic and washed up on shore.
Cold-stunned sea turtles washing up on Massachusetts beaches are an annual phenomenon, the aquarium said in a statement Monday, but the number of turtles in need of rescue has steadily increased. increase in recent decades.
This year, turtles began stranding on Cape Cod on November 18. Massachusetts Audubon Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary staff and volunteers scoured the beaches for turtles suffering from hypothermia so they could be brought to the aquarium’s sea turtle hospital in Quincy. Hypothermia and the inability to feed can lead to a number of life-threatening conditions for animals.
A total of 153 sea turtles were treated. This includes 120 Kemp’s Ridley turtles and 33 green turtles. The smallest sea turtles in the world, Kemp’s Ridley turtles are critically endangered.
Climate change appears to have an impact when cold-stunned turtles are discovered on Massachusetts beaches. Researchers believe warmer ocean temperatures have delayed the start of the annual stranding season this year.
“Previously, cold-stunned sea turtles started stranding in late October. Warmer weather means Cape Cod Bay waters stay warmer for an extended period, which we think could be a sign of the impact of climate change on the Gulf of Maine,” Salvage and Rehabilitation Director Adam Kennedy said in a statement.
Staff members use physical exams, blood tests, X-rays, and measurements of heart rate and respiratory rate to assess turtles once they arrive at the aquarium facility. Turtles commonly suffer from dehydration, pneumonia, and shell or bone fractures.
“All of our sea turtle patients receive individualized care based on their condition. Depending on the severity, the turtles may need weeks, months and sometimes over a year of treatment before they get to a point where we can free them to release them back into the ocean,” the manager said. of Animal Health, Charles Innis, in a statement.
The aquarium works with Turtles Fly Too, a non-profit organization, to transport animals when more space is needed at the Sea Turtle Hospital. With an increasing number of turtles needing quick help, those that have been stabilized are sometimes taken to other facilities where they can receive additional care.
The volunteer pilots of Turtles Fly Too began their transport flights on Sunday. They transported more than 40 turtles to the South Carolina Aquarium, the Georgia Sea Turtle Center and the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society in New York. On top of that, 12 turtles were taken to Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut last week. Those who remain in critical condition at the New England Aquarium facility will complete rehab there before being discharged next summer.
Although the number of cold-stunned sea turtles changes from year to year, researchers are seeing a gradual increase. In 2000, only about 50 freeze-stunned turtles were found in Massachusetts, according to the aquarium. Over 700 turtles have been discovered in 2021. On average, staff members care for around 300 turtles each year. Most turtles that arrive at the aquarium facility are successfully rehabilitated and released back into the ocean.
Those who find sea turtles on beaches north of Boston, New Hampshire should call the New England Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Rescue Hotline at 617-973-5247. People who find sea turtles along the South Shore, Cape Cod and the islands should call the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary at 508-349-2615 x6104.
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