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43 Cold-Stunned Sea Turtles Flown to Safety on Rescue Flight from the Northeast U.S. to Georgia

Cold stunned turtle rescue
Cold stunned turtle rescue

Jekyll Island Authority

Forty-three rescue turtles have received their wings.

The sea turtles were left cold-stunned by a recent stranding event in Massachusetts, per the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island in Georgia.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association Fisheries website, cold-stunning occurs when "sea turtles become very weak and inactive from exposure to cold temperatures," defined as temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

The New England Aquarium and the National Marine Life Center worked together to help with the initial care of the rescue turtles. On Nov. 27, the facilities passed the animals onto marine centers with more room to look after the reptiles, sending the turtles off on a plane.

Turtles Fly Too — a nonprofit dedicated to piloting volunteer flights for turtles who need to be relocated — organized the flight for the 43 sea creatures.

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Cold stunned turtle rescue
Cold stunned turtle rescue

Jekyll Island Authority

The journey had several stops, with the first being in New York, where pilot Steve Bernstein and his son Owen dropped off 20 turtles to the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society. After New York, the plane traveled to South Carolina to hand over 15 turtles to the South Carolina Aquarium.

The last eight turtles, all Kemp's ridley turtles, flew to Georgia, where Georgia Sea Turtle Center staff members met the plane at the Jekyll Island Airport and took the animals to their new home. The turtles received initial evaluations at the center and are working on getting "rewarmed" and recovered. After their medical exams, the turtles were placed in pools set up to help the animals raise their body temperature.

"Slowly rewarming the turtles to match the water temperature to their body temperature is very important. The temperature will be raised by 5 degrees per day. If the temperature is raised too quickly, it can create physiological changes that can cause them to become stressed or shocked," the Georgia Sea Turtle Center shared.

Cold stunned turtle rescue
Cold stunned turtle rescue

Jekyll Island Authority

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"The turtles will also receive supportive care that could include blood work, radiographs, diagnostics, and wound management if they have any wounds," the center added.

Once the sea turtles are strong and healthy, the marine centers will start working on releasing the animals back into the wild.