MARATHON, FLA. (WSVN) - Critically endangered sea turtles were flown in from New England to a hospital in Marathon after being rescued from the coastal waters of Cape Cod, Mass., suffering from cold-stunning.
Fifteen Kemp’s ridley sea turtles were flown to the Florida Keys Marathon Airport by a group of volunteer general aviation pilots who call themselves the “Sea Turtle Lift Off.” These pilots donated their aircraft, fuel and time to transport the turtles in towel-lined banana boxes.
The juvenile turtles, ranging from two to 10 pounds each, arrived Monday evening from Norwood, Mass.
After landing, the sea turtles were transferred to The Turtle Hospital in Marathon. The Turtle Hospital opened in September of 1986, as the world’s first state-licensed veterinary sea turtle hospital.
Most of the turtles have been diagnosed with pneumonia as a result of cold-stunning. Cold-stunning is a hypothermic reaction that occurs when sea turtles are exposed to cold water for a prolonged time, said Turtle Hospital manager Bette Zirkelbach.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, “at very low temperatures (less than 50o Fahrenheit) these cold-blooded animals may become lethargic or ‘stunned.’ Smaller sea turtles are the first to feel the effects of the cold, but if the temperature stays low for too long, larger sea turtles will also be affected. A cold-stunned turtle is not able to move very well, if at all.”
Their treatment consists antibiotics, vitamins, food and providing habitats with warm water at 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
The rehabilitation is expected to take up to two months, according to Zirkelbach. They are likely to be released in the waters off of Florida when they recover.
According to Zirkelbach, Kemp’s ridley sea turtles are the most endangered turtle species in the world.
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