Over 120 sea turtles have been saved this week on the beaches of Cape Code Bay. The cold-stunned turtles have been washed on the shores by strong winds.
The volunteers at the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary of Audubon Massachusetts have been able to save approximately 60 percent of the stranded turtles, which were still alive.
Most of these turtles were Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, which is the rarest type of sea turtle and an endangered species.
Hundreds of turtles are stranding each ear on the beaches of Cape Cod as they are prepearing for the winter by swimming south, to warmer waters. But this usually happens way earlier in the ear, during the middle of November so it is very unusual to happen this late in December.
The sea turtles come back to Cape Cod Bay every summer as it is an excellent spot for finding food. But as they like warm waters they have to leave before winter, when the bay’s waters are getting too cold for their survival. Unfortunately many of them are unable to find their way out of the bay, remaining trapped as the temperatures drop and then become hypothermic.
Bob Prescott, spokesman for the Wildlife Sanctuary says that according to their experience from previous years, most of the turtles that couldn’t escape the bay until this late in the year should be already dead. The high rate of survivals is a result of the increased temperatures, which are higher than normal for this season.
Prescott argues that his volunteers are making efforts to save any turtle ‘’with a spark of life” stranded on the beaches of Brewster, Eastham, Truro and Wellfleet.
The turtles have been taken by the volunteers to the animal care facility of the New England Aquarium in Quincy, where they will be cared for and rehabilitated. The care providers will slowly warm them up over the next days.
Since November volunteers at the Wildlife Sanctuary have saved over 200 turtles until this weekend. This is a very small number compared to the record number registered last year, when 1,200 turtles were stranded but not very far from the second-largest stranding which happened in 2012 when 413 turtles have been stranded.
According to Prescott, the turtles that couldn’t be saved and died of hypothermia before the arrival of the rescuers are going to be studied by scientists in order to find out more about the phenomena.
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