QUINCY, Mass. (WWLP) – The New England Aquarium is reporting an increase in the number of hypothermic turtles rescued from Cape Cod beaches. In a news release, the Aquarium says Rescue and Animal Health staff at the Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Hospital have treated 119 sea turtles this fall: 109 critically endangered Kemp’s ridley turtles, eight green turtles, and two loggerheads. Some of the conditions are life-threatening, including pneumonia and dehydration.
Hundreds of turtles become stranded along Cape Cod during this time of year due to the drop in temperature in the water and their inability to move around the hook shape of the Cape. The warmer water temperatures this fall led to the larger numbers of turtles being stranded.
Beginning in October, staff and volunteers with Massachusetts Audubon Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary begin looking for stranded, hypothermic turtles along the Cape’s beaches, which are then brought to the Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Hospital. Depending on the severity of their conditions, many turtles require weeks or months of treatment, including fluid therapy and antibiotics.
“After months of planning and preparation, our team has mobilized quickly to triage these animals as temperatures dip in Cape Cod Bay and lead to more and more strandings,” said Adam Kennedy, Manager of Rescue and Rehabilitation.
After the turtles have been stabilized and approved for removal, the Aquarium works with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Fisheries Service to identify and send them to one of many aquatic rehabilitation facilities in the southern U.S. The non-profit organization Turtles Fly Too helps with the transport to the facilities. Once the turtles have recovered fully, they will be released back into the ocean.