2015 Turtles: 50 Turtles Head South

This post is adapted from a media release that appeared on the News Blog. To date, 287 sea turtles that have washed up on the beaches of Cape Cod Bay have been admitted to the Aquarium’s sea turtle hospital since early November. Today, 50 turtles were transported south.

A Kemp's ridley sea turtle in treatment at the Aquarium's Animal Care Center in Quincy

Yesterday, our first wintery storm delayed the flight of fifty endangered Kemp's ridley sea turtles from the our sea turtle hospital in Quincy, MA, to a turtle rehab facility in Florida.

Boxing up turtles for transport to warmer climes
(Photo via Karen Twomey via Twitter @KarenWBZRadio)
But the three- to ten-pound, black-shelled, juveniles eventually shipped out from Hanscomb Airport in Bedford, MA, today. Their five-hour flight to Panama City, Florida, will bring them to Gulf World, a marine park that has been a crucial partner of ours, finishing the rehab of a large number of cold-stunned sea turtles over the past two record-setting years.

The flight has been arranged by NOAA and will be operated by PlaneSense,
a private aviation company located in Portsmouth, N.H.  

Many thanks to PlaneSense for operating this flight and donating part of the cost of the trip. We are also incredibly grateful to a generous, anonymous benefactor from New York, who is covering the remainder of the cost of the trip.

The turtles all safely stowed in their banana boxes for transport

This autumn’s sea turtle stranding season is the second largest in the quarter century partnership between the New England Aquarium and the Mass Audubon’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. Our hospital is over capacity. Transferring these rewarmed and medically stable turtles to other rehab facilities in the South and along the East Coast will make room for any more turtles that may strand.

We could not save so many turtles with the help of rescue partners
in Wellfleet and throughout the country.

In a normal weather year, the sea turtle stranding season would already be over as they rarely survive the water temperatures in the low 40’s, which is typical. But Cape Cod Bay has been exceptionally warm for most of December with water temperatures in the high 40’s.

The loggerhead rescued by volunteers at Mass Audubon at Wellfleet Bay
(Photo via Mass Audubon's Facebook page)

The last surviving turtles of the season are almost always large, adolescent loggerhead sea turtles weighing 25 to 75 pounds. So far this season, only one has been admitted leaving the truly strange prospect of tropical sea turtles stranding in New England well into January.

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