BOSTON (WWLP) – The New England Aquarium’s sea turtle hospital provided life-saving care for an increasing number of endangered turtles that became stranded on Cape Cod.
The Aquarium’s sea turtle hospital in Quincy has taken in 66 turtles, staff, and volunteers with Massachusetts Audubon Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary have rescued and transported them to the Aquarium’s sea turtle hospital.
The turtles are treated for different kinds of life-threatening medical conditions that are caused by weeks of hypothermia and the inability to feed themselves. The season has just begun and they expect more turtles in the coming weeks.
“The lingering warm temperatures this autumn kept the water temperature just above the threshold for sea turtles. The sudden drop in temperature and winds on Tuesday seemed to kick-start the season, which is now well underway,” said Connie Merigo, manager of the Marine Animal Rescue Department.
The pandemic has made it challenging for rescuers to care for turtles. Social distancing guidelines are difficult to follow since rescuers must stay six feet apart while working to save these endangered species, some of which include kemp’s ridleys, loggerheads, and leatherbacks.
Both manager Merigo and Dr. Charles Innis, director of Animal Health for the New England Aquarium, prepared flexible rehabilitation plans that account for COVID-19 restrictions, in order to treat and stabilize the turtles.
Once stabilized the turtles are being moved to secondary rehabilitation facilities like Gulf World, along the East Coast of the United States and the Gulf of Mexico, to free up space for more arrivals.
“The sea turtle stranding network is teaming up once again to help us save as many endangered sea turtles as possible under the current conditions. The dedication of the network runs deep, and the teamwork is what makes this all possible, especially in a challenging year like 2020,” said Merigo.
Another part of the institution’s conservation mission is collecting data on cold-stunned sea turtles released back into the wild by researchers like Dr. Kara Dodge, a research scientist with the Aquarium’s Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life, who tracked the movement of six rehabilitated turtles that were released over the summer.
In this challenging year, the New England Aquarium launched the Mission Forward Fund, which supports the institution with protecting ocean life, critical research on endangered species, and advocates for the environment.