A team of rescuers – biologists and volunteers – have gathered to save the sea turtles from cold northern waters, and move them south for the winter using trucks, cars, and planes.
North Carolina sea turtle biologist Matthew Godfrey said that the turtles were first driven to the border with South Carolina and then another team picked them up and drove them to the border with Georgia. From Georgia, the sea turtles were brought to their final destination – the northern part of Florida, Mr. Godfrey explained.
The sea turtles stranded as far south as North Carolina, were taken into aquariums by the rescuers because they presented symptoms of sea turtle hypothermia.
From late October into the month of December, the New England Aquarium always takes in some young turtles that get lost in Cape Cod – located in the easternmost part of the state of Massachusetts in the North-eastern United States.
Tony LaCasse, a spokesman for the New England Aquarium, said that although adult turtles do not swim as far as Massachusetts, some inexperienced, juvenile turtles do. Those young turtles (that miss the migration to southern regions) become paralysed with cold when winter comes around.
According to Mr. LaCasse, approximately ninety percent of the strandings occur in Kemp-ridley sea turtles – the most endangered of sea turtle species. The Kemp-ridley population is entitled to conservation effort under a number of international treaties, as well as the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
Usually, the New England Aquarium only receives around ninety sea turtles per year, which makes it easier for the rescue network to rehabilitate the animals. However, Kate Sampson, a sea turtle stranding and disentanglement coordinator for the Northeast at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), said that whenever the number of distraught sea turtles is bigger – such as 733 individuals in 2014 and 320 in 2015 – finding places to transport and rehabilitate the sea turtles throughout the moths of November and December is a lot more difficult.
Sampson said that maintaining constant temperature in turtles is the main health concern – which is why commercial flights (to transport the turtles) are avoided because they cannot guarantee a warm cargo especially in wither weather.
The flights are found via the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. They are private planes which can transport almost two hundred turtles at a time. Planes are the best mode of transport because they decrease travel time form New England to Florida, thus being less stressful for the sea turtles.
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