Big Season, Big Turtles, and BIG Transport

It has been a record setting turtle season with BIG numbers of cold-stunned sea turtles being admitted to the Animal Care Center.  As of this moment, we have had over 160 turtles come through our door in the past month.  We haven't had much time to share stories about our amazing patients, but I just wanted to take the time to show you the BIG events happening for the Rescue Team through some photos from the front line.  

There is a flurry of activity happening in the turtle hospital.  As you can see above, we have BIG numbers of volunteers and time being spent on the animals.  Extra treatment stations are being set up on the deck, staff from other departments in the aquarium as well as other organizations (including Riverhead Foundation in NY) are being called in to help, hours and hours of feeding and swimming turtles in kiddie pools are happening on these long days.

The clinic is busy with blood draws and intense treatments.  Just take a look at our blood and radiograph board from last week!  And this doesn't even include the regular exams and treatments taking place.  It's a BIG job getting these turtles healthy again!

We're also getting large numbers of some BIG turtles this year.  The loggerhead sea turtles we are seeing range from 20 pounds to over 70 pounds.  We are also getting several in one day.  The photo above shows a group of 22 turtles that all arrived last Thursday which included 6 of these big guys.  Normally we may see 1-5 loggerheads in a season, but we have received over 25 already!

With these large numbers of turtles coming in, our tanks are getting crowded.  I love the picture above of our green sea turtles getting some rest huddled to one side of the tank (away from the outflow).  We have begun transporting small numbers of turtles to several other facilities, including the University of New England (UNE), National Marine Life Center, National Aquarium in Baltimore, Virginia Aquarium, South Carolina Aquarium, and the Georgia Sea Turtle Center.

The BIGGEST transport of all happened on Friday!  35 sea turtles - 15 loggerheads (including six that had been sent to UNE) and 20 Kemp's ridley sea turtles - were flown to Florida to continue rehabilitation at various facilites.

At 4:30am several volunteers and staff met in Quincy to prepare the turtles for transport.  Just look at all these boxes!

The turtles were loaded into a trailer (courtesy of IFAW's Marine Mammal Rescue Team) and transported to Otis Air Force Base where they were loaded onto a C-130.  The Coast Guard did us an amazing favor by flying these animals to Florida.

Above, the turtles are done being loaded and they prepare for take off.  We appreciate the BIG support from all of the organizations helping us for this transport.  UNE and IFAW went out of their way to provide the transportation to the air field and we could not have transported such a large number of turtles without the Coast Guard's kindness.  And a huge thanks to the facilities who received these patients and will continue their care, including SeaWorld Orlando, Mote Marine Laboratory, Florida Aquarium, Loggerhead MarineLife Center, and Volusia Marine Science Center.

The aquarium will continue to update you on the BIG happenings in Quincy, and on behalf of the rescue staff, we will try to get some more photos and stories to you in the coming weeks.  Our amazing volunteers are tirelessly working alongside us, and we all appreciate the support as the BIGGEST turtle season in Massachusetts continues.



  1. I want to take a moment to say THANK YOU! to each and every volunteers and staff member for taking care of such magnificant creatures. You are truly amazing! Keep up the good work!

  2. This is amazing to see such hard work and care for these animals. I am curious though, where are all the turtles coming from?

    1. The turtles are being rescued from the beaches of Cape Cod by amazing volunteers with Mass Audubon at Wellfleet Bay (though some turtles are now being found on the South Shore in the Boston area). The turtles strand because they become hypothermic and lethargic and sometimes sick and they can't swim around the Cape to head down to warmer waters where they usually spend the winter. Once rescued, the turtles are brought to the Aquarium's off-site turtle hospital for rehab. Now why are there SO MANY turtles this year? That's a good question that we don't quite know the answer to just yet! Stay tuned.