Fifteen critically endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtles arrived Monday in the Keys to convalesce and warm up after being rescued from cold coastal waters off Cape Cod, Mass.
Suffering from pneumonia as a result of cold-stunning, the juvenile turtles, ranging from two to 10 pounds apiece, were flown to Florida Keys Marathon International Airport from Norwood, Mass. They were taken to the Turtle Hospital in Marathon.
Cold-stunning is a hypothermic reaction that occurs when sea turtles are exposed to cold water for a prolonged time, said Turtle Hospital manager Bette Zirkelbach.
“They’re going to be treated at te Turtle Hospital with broad-pectrum antibiotics,” Zirkelbach said. “We’re going to give them vitamins, a healthy diet and we’re going to keep them in warm water, 75 degrees, that will warm them up and let those medications do their work.”
The reptiles were rescued within the past few weeks and initially treated by New England Aquarium personnel.
Kemp’s ridley sea turtles are the most endangered of turtle species, Zirkelbach said.
The rehabilitation is expected to take up to two months, according to Zirkelbach, adding that the reptiles are likely to be released in waters off Florida after they recover.
The effort to fly the turtles to the Keys was made possible by a group of private pilots, dubbed Sea Turtle Lift Off, who donated their aircraft, fuel and time. The turtles were transported in towel-lined banana boxes.
In November 2014, 30 Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles were brought down from Cape Cod, also due to cold-stunning. They rehabbed and were released.