Fifty-two endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtles suffering from “cold stun” are rehabbing at four facilities in Florida after a flight on a private plane from the New England Aquarium in Massachusetts.
The turtles arrived in Tampa on Tuesday, and 16 were sent to Clearwater Marine Aquarium, officials said in a news release. All of the turtles were experiencing a condition known as cold stun from the frigid New England waters.
The other turtles were taken to Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, The Florida Aquarium in Tampa and Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Jupiter.
“This is a regular occurrence each winter and we’ve participated in the continued care of these turtles since 2016,” said Shelly Marquardt, a veterinarian for the Clearwater facility. “We know that their time in rehabilitation here makes a difference for the future of this endangered species, and we are proud to be able to contribute to their conservation efforts.”
Sea turtles are cold-blooded reptiles and adapt to the temperature of their surroundings. During prolonged exposure to icy water temperatures, their circulatory systems slow down and the turtles are unable to swim or function properly.
The turtles will continue rehabbing at the aquarium, where guests are welcome to visit and watch their journey. Eventually the turtles will be returned to their natural habitat.
Florida saw a record number of sea turtle nests this year. Preliminary state statistics show more than 133,840 loggerhead turtle nests, breaking a record set in 2016. The same is true for green turtles, with the estimate of at least 76,500 nests well above the previous mark set in 2017.
High sea turtle nest numbers also have been reported in South Carolina, Alabama, North Carolina and Georgia, although not all set records like Florida.