Four endangered loggerhead sea turtles have recovered enough to be transported on Thursday to North Carolina for further care. 

That’s after they had been rescued, cold and hypothermic, from Cape Cod beaches and then treated at the New England Aquarium’s Animal Care Center in Quincy.

The four loggerhead turtles, ranging in weight from 30 to 80 pounds, are now medically stable. Each  was carefully loaded into a plane at Marshfield Municipal Airport and then flown by volunteer pilot Paul Schubert to North Carolina, where they will be treated at the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center in Surf City, N.C. Schubert regularly donates his plane, fuel, and time to help with the effort to rescue and rehabilitate endangered sea turtles through an organization called Turtles Fly Too.

Connie prepares a turtle for transport.
Connie prepares a turtle for transport.
We don’t have enough space to house these large loggerhead turtles.
- Connie Merigo, head of the Aquarium’s marine animal rescue effort

The New England Aquarium’s rescue team is in the midst of the second busiest cold stranding season on record, according to Kate Sampson, the sea turtle stranding coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration office in Gloucester. In 2014, 733 sea turtles came through our sea turtle hospital.

So far this year, 415 live turtles have been admitted to the Aquarium’s sea turtle hospital, and 276 turtles have been stabilized and transported to other rehabilitation facilities. 

rescuers looking at loggerhead
The rescue team observes the first loggerhead that arrived earlier this season.

In late November and early December, these strandings often occur. About 766 endangered loggerhead, green, and Kemp’s ridley turtles have been collected by volunteers for Massachusetts Audubon’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary after the sea turtles, cold and unable to migrate south past Cape Cod, washed ashore onto beaches. This year, many of them washed up dead, including 329 endangered Kemp’s ridley turtles.

Volunteers then help drive living turtles to Quincy, where turtle rescue staff check their vital signs and treat them for hypothermia or pneumonia. Once rewarmed and medically stabilized, the turtles continue their care in Quincy. When the facility reaches capacity, efforts are made to move some turtles to other aquariums for care or to be released back into warmer ocean waters farther south.

rescuer treats turtle
A rescuer delivers fluid in preparation for the turtle's long flight.

A particularly heartwarming moment of this feel-good transport came when Schubert presented Connie, the head of our rescue team, and our amazing volunteers with knitted sea turtles. These darling turtles were made by his wife, an artist, and proceeds go to support the volunteer pilot organization that coordinates flights for rescued turtles to other facilities for rehabilitation. 

stuffed turtles
So cute!
rescuers and plane
Connie, left, and the other rescuers are all smiles with their new turtles. Behind, Schubert sits on the plane.

“I am so grateful to all the people who donate their time and resources to help us save these turtles,” Merigo said, citing the volunteers who come in the middle of the night to load turtles into containers, vans, and planes as well as those who drive the cars and fly the planes to help the turtles get healthy again. “It’s an amazing effort to contribute to saving endangered species, and we have a lot of help.”

In the Media

Local news outlets were on hand for the transport event. See more pictures and video from the event.

If you want to support our efforts to rescue and release sea turtles as well as continue all our research, conservation, and education programs, please consider donating to the New England Aquarium.