The juvenile turtles washed ashore in Cape Cod, left stranded and unable to move as temperatures drop in the North Atlantic. Once rescued, the Kemp’s ridley sea turtles were flown to the Florida Keys to rehabilitate.
Normally, the turtles would receive treatment at local aquariums, but the sheer number of turtles washing ashore this season has forced scientists to seek help from other states, according to the South Florida Reporter.
“Hundreds of turtles are washing up on the beach,” said Turtle Hospital manager Bette Zirkelbach. “More than the capacity that the aquariums up there can take care of, so they are being flown to the Turtle Hospital to warm up and have care for these critical animals.”
Earlier in November, a 350-pound loggerhead turtle washed ashore in Cape Cod, requiring a titanic effort to shift it to a local aquarium for care and rehabilitation.
The New England Aquarium’s sea turtle hospital in Quincy took in more than 40 turtles over two days before Thanksgiving, bringing the total to 66 turtles being treated at the facility.
Sea turtle strandings have become an annual event on Cape Cod, occurring when the turtles are unable to navigate away before the water temperature drops. A variety of turtles, including Kemp’s ridleys and loggerheads as well as leatherbacks, are treated for life-threatening conditions.
Zirkelbach said that the most critically ill turtles may be suffering additional complications, such as pneumonia or infections.
“They could be at the Turtle Hospital anywhere from 30 days to a year’s time, depending on their condition when they arrived here,” she said. “Once we warm them up, they’re going to go to another part of Florida to be returned to the ocean and that’s our goal with these 40 turtles.”
Florida is also playing host to dozens of other “cold-stunned” turtles flown down from New England for rehabilitation.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.