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Volunteer Pilots Fly Endangered Sea Turtles To Rehabilitation

Helping In Effort To Rescue Animals That Had Become Too Cold In The North Atlantic

The mass stranding of hypothermic sea turtles on Cape Cod reached a new peak late last week as 22 more of the endangered and threatened marine reptiles were collected by Massachusetts Audubon staff and volunteers and transferred to the New England Aquarium's rescue facilities in Quincy. Since Monday of last week, 67 animals of three different turtle species have been found stranded on Cape Cod Bay beaches with body temperatures in the mid to high 40's.

The mass wash-up of cold stunned sea turtles on this scale is believed to happen no where else in the world. Sick sea turtles do strand each November and December on Cape Cod. The Aquarium's record for treating sea turtles that arrive still alive is 144. Yesterday's new 22 pushed this season's total to 107 animals received, and Aquarium officials think that might just be at the half-way point.
 
Compounding the massive volume and pace of the strandings is a new phenomenon of a record number of large loggerhead sea turtles arriving. Usually, 90% of the sea turtles that strand are 2 to 12 pound juvenile Kemp-Ridleys. On Wednesday and Thursday last week, eleven 50 to 100 pound loggerheads arrived. In a normal year, the Aquarium might handle four or five of the husky, chestnut brown turtles in an entire season. The big turtles quickly fill tank space in the Aquarium's state of the art rescue facility which is optimally designed to handle about 100 smaller turtles.

To make space for more incoming turtles, the Aquarium has been reaching out to fellow marine animal rescue facilities and aquariums up and down the East Coast. Thursday, eight re-warmed and stable Kemps were driven to the National Marine Life Center on Cape Cod. Friday, four more Kemps were flown out of Norwood to the Virginia Aquarium on a donated flight by Lighthawk, which is a network of private pilots that help move endangered wildlife around the U.S. Also Friday, six big loggerheads were transported to the University of New England in Biddeford, Maine. Later this week, Worcester-based Polar Beverages will fly more sea turtles to Maryland and Georgia. The Aquarium said in a news release it is grateful for both the generosity and expertise of these partners in helping save endangered sea turtles.

FMI: www.lighthawk.org

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