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Sea Turtles Recover at Aquariums After Ocean Temperature Drop

Jan 25, 2016 05:33 PM EST
green sea turtle
Ripley's Aquarium in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and other aquariums in North and South Carolina recently took in cold-stunned sea turtles to allow them to recover after they experienced hypothermia when ocean temperatures suddenly dropped. The turtles had a late start leaving the Northeast because of unseasonably warm weather there.
(Photo : Wikimedia Commons)

Among sea turtles rescued from being "cold stunned" by a dip in coastline water temperatures in recent weeks, eight young green sea turtles are recovering at Ripley's Aquarium in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

As reptiles, the animals need sun to maintain their body temperature, and they left the Northeast a bit later because of unseasonably warm temperatures there, missing their key window to move south, said Tim Handsel, director of the aquarium's husbandry program, in an article in the Sun News.

As a result, a quick drop in water temperatures slowed the juvenile turtles' heart rate and circulation, bringing on hypothermia.

In a rehabilitation period that could take two weeks to a month, the turtles are currently in a 9,000-gallon warm tank. They're being monitored for pneumonia and infections, senior aquarist Sean Boyd said in the article.

"We will try to put some weight on them, treat them for illness, and clean their shells of barnacles," Boyd said in the article. "Luckily these guys came in in pretty good health and are on an antibiotic regimen. We will keep them until they finish their meds and gain some weight. We'll do some blood work and then contact the (South Carolina) Department of Natural Resources to make arrangements for their release."

Each of the turtles weighs between four and six pounds and is around dinner-plate size. They will likely weigh six to eight pounds by release time.

Ripley's steps in to help when facilities such as the Sea Turtle Hospital at the South Carolina Aquarium have reached capacity in their recovery programs. The staff minimizes contact with the turtles so that they will not later rely on humans for food.

Over 100 'Cold-Stunned' Sea Turtles Rescued From Cape Cod Shores

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