Jan 19 2016

Turtles Rescued In North Carolina From Frigid Waters

Ocean waters in North Carolina were covered in tiny floating discs that turned out to be cold stunned sea turtles recently, and a huge effort was initiated to try to save them. Rescuers recovered over 600 turtles and transported them to three aquariums throughout the state as well as the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center in Surf City. These juvenile turtles were suffering from what equates to hypothermia, and some were suffering also from pneumonia. Conservationists scrambled to save as many as possible of these, but some unfortunately perished before being saved.

The turtles became trapped in sudden cold waters that occurred during the past two weeks and were mostly green turtles, although some were Loggerheads or Kemp’s ridleys. They were in waters around 50 degrees and found cold stunned and unable to move. This leaves them to end up on beaches, end up in eventual death, or being left for prey such as birds or fish. Many recovered turtles have recovered as of today while others are still in treatments that may require medication and/or extra time spent in warm baths.

Locally, the group, Folly’s Turtles, is keeping an eye out for similar instances of turtles falling ill under these dire circumstances. With quick drops in temperature happening also in South Carolina, the group is scouring the waters to ensure the safety of our favorite local reptiles.

We were curious to learn more about how cold stunned turtles are treated and reached out to fellow rescue groups in Maine to find out more. Here is the information we were able to glean about how our conservancies may go about providing the best atmosphere and aid for the ailing turtles.

First, one of the biggest challenges is finding space for the mass amounts of turtles found in this kind of emergency. Thankfully, North Carolina was able to place their turtles so quickly and save as many as possible. The volunteer actions necessary to transport them is extensive, as is the rescue operation itself. Many hours go into picking them up, driving or flying them to the facilities, and dropping them off for treatment. In many instances, the turtles are carried in banana crates, which allows them to breathe easily while having a sturdy structure for stacking and safety.

The turtles are then warmed gradually. This process can take days to be effective. They are then checked for malnutrition, dehydration, any injuries or infections, or metabolic issues. More volunteer hours are spent trying to get the turtles to eat healthily and go for supervised swims. In the worst cases, turtles have to be treated in extended warm baths with antibiotics, ointments and other medications to help them survive.

In the latest case out of North Carolina, they are planning to release over 200 of the 600 turtles back into the ocean on Friday off of the Georgia/Florida border where water temperatures are more mild compared to the Carolinas.

If you would like more information about how to help local sea turtles, contact FollyTurtles@gmail.com.

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