The New England Aquarium hauled in a load of ailing sea turtles, who were “facing imminent death due to hypothermia,” according to aquarium spokesman Tony LaCasse.
The 17 sea turtles were found Wednesday night and recovered by this morning by volunteers at the Audubon Sanctuary in Wellfleet. They combed miles of beach and found the turtles from Truro to Eastham. If they had been left on the beach overnight, they would have died, said LaCasse.
The turtles—probably one of the largest recoveries the aquarium has seen, according to LaCasse—were brought to the aquarium's new animal care center in Quincy, where they will be treated for hypothermia, dehydration, and malnourishment.
LaCasse said their body temperatures were in the high 40s to low 50s, when they were supposed to be in the low to mid 70s.
Their body temperatures will be raised gradually—only five degrees a day—so that dormant pathogens from fungal and bacterial infections won’t overwhelm them and they can be treated with saline that will kill infections, said LaCasse.
Their temperatures should return to normal by Monday, he said.
LaCasse attributes the large number of turtles to high Northwest winds that stirred waves which carried them from Boston Harbor, to inside the upper arm of Cape Cod.
The 17 turtles brought the number to 41 that have been recovered since October 20, LaCasse said. He said a group of turtles that large would have been overwhelming before the animal care center was built.
About 90 percent of rescued sea turtles are of the Kemp’s Ridleys variety, the most endangered species of sea turtle and the most affected by the Gulf oil spill, according to LaCasse.
After the turtles recover, they will be released back in the water over the summer, said LaCasse. Rescued turtles have an 80 to 90 percent rate of survival, he said.
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