Sea Turtle Trek to Drive 46 Endangered and Threatened Sea Turtles Rescued from Cape Cod to Florida for Release
An East Coast Endangered Species Express
|Scenes from this year's record cold-stun season: A rescuer examines the mouth of a Kemp's ridley sea turtle|
These sea turtles are the last major transport of the record 242 sea turtles that washed up on Massachusetts beaches due to hypothermia last November and December. Cold-stunned sea turtles strand every late autumn on Cape Cod. There, they are collected by the dedicated and hardy staff and volunteers of the Massachusetts Audubon Sanctuary at Wellfleet Bay who search miles of beaches in cold, blustery weather. The mostly inert turtles are then transported to the New England Aquarium’s Animal Care Center in Quincy, MA, about ten miles south of Boston, where they are slowly re-warmed and treated for months with many other life threatening medical conditions. In an average year, about seventy juvenile, Kemp’s ridley, loggerhead and green sea turtles are taken in.
|Scenes from cold-stun season: Rescue experts from National Aquarium in Baltimore speak with the Aquarium's chief veterinarian Dr. Charles Innis during the busy sea turtle stranding season.|
This past year, between Thanksgiving and Christmas , the flow of these critically ill sea turtles just never seemed to stop. The Aquarium’s state-of-the art sea turtle hospital has a capacity of about seventy animals. Connie Merigo, head of the Aquarium’s rescue team, quickly reached out to other aquariums and marine animal rehab facilities all along the East Coast to take in sea turtles that had already been re-warmed and stabilized. Since then, many of these turtles have already been treated and released.
|Scenes from cold-stun season: A loggerhead turtle rests on towels|
|Scenes from cold-stun season: A green sea turtle during treatments|
The Sea Turtle Trek will collect the most of the remaining sea turtles that are ready for release in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states. Early Saturday morning, biologists at the University of New England (UNE) in Biddeford, Maine will lift five, chestnut brown-colored, loggerhead sea turtles from their tanks and package them into dry, padded crates for transport two hours south to the New England Aquarium’s Quincy site. At the same time on Cape Cod, staff at the National Marine Life Center (NMLC) in Buzzards Bay will prepare four charcoal-colored Kemp’s ridleys for an hour and a half ride north to Quincy. There, those nine animals will join twenty-eight more from the Aquarium’s sea turtle hospital to begin the Sea Turtle Trek’s long drive south.
|Scenes from cold-stun season: A volunteer keeps an eye on a loggerhead sea turtle awaiting treatment|
In Connecticut, the turtle caravan will stop briefly to off I-95 to pick up four loggerheads that will be ferried across Long Island Sound from the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation. With forty-one marine reptiles in tow, the Sea Turtle Trek will drive to the National Aquarium in Baltimore by early Saturday evening to pick up one green, one Kemp’s and one loggerhead. Then with forty-four animals, the trek will stop at the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center in Virginia Beach in the late evening.
|Scenes from cold-stun season: An expert from the Riverhead Foundation in New York who was on hand to help during the record sea turtle stranding season.|
Traveling overnight with multiple drivers, the Sea Turtle Trek hopes to arrive in the Jacksonville, Florida area by late Sunday morning. There, officials from Florida Fish & Wildlife will select a release beach in the region, and forty-six endangered and threatened sea turtles will crawl down a beach to re-enter the ocean. All of the people and organizations who have helped these sea turtles along their unusual paths hope that they live long lives and contribute to the recovery of their threatened and endangered populations.
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