Boston, MA - July 5, 2007
Four of the world’s most endangered sea turtles rescued from Cape Cod last November are now healthy enough to be released back into the ocean. However, since local waters are currently much too cold for sea turtles, the New England Aquarium / Sovereign Bank Marine Animal Rescue Team has arranged for the juvenile Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles to be driven to Topsail, N.C. where they will be released on Wednesday.
On their motorized migration south, these four serving platter-sized reptiles will be joined by three other Kemp’s Ridley turtles that have also finished their rehabilitation at the National Marine Life Center (NMLC) on Cape Cod. The sea turtles from NMLC had been transferred from the Aquarium during the winter after they had become medically stabilized.
Each November, anywhere from 25 to 150 young Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles are rescued from the chilly waters of Cape Cod Bay. In the late summer, these inexperienced sea turtles find themselves north of the Cape. Their instincts direct them to swim south, but they become befuddled by the sixty-mile long land barrier in their way. To survive, the sea turtles must swim north over 20 miles past the tip of Cape Cod before migrating south. Those sea turtles that do not figure out that navigation problem, slowly chill over the next eight weeks as the water temperature drops from the high 60’s to the high 40’s.
Humans would be long dead, but cold blooded sea turtles slow down all vital body functions to as slow as a single heartbeat per minute. If lucky and with a favorable westerly wind, these nearly inert sea turtles will wash up mostly on the beaches of the Outer Cape. There volunteer walkers from the Massachusetts Audubon Society at Wellfleet Bay comb dozens of miles of beach trying to find the world’s most endangered sea turtles before the scavengers and predators do.
Those sea turtles are brought to the Aquarium near death with extreme hypothermia, severe dehydration, pneumonia, and often shell or bone fractures. Their treatment can last from several months to two years. Over 90% of the sea turtles that arrive at the Aquarium alive, do survive and are released. Over the past 15 years, the New England Aquarium has treated and released several hundred Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles in a wild population that numbers just in the thousands.