GULFPORT, Miss. (WHLT) – Forty-five endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtles made their trip from Massachusetts to Mississippi on Tuesday after becoming ill and stranded due to the annual cold-stun event that occurs between November and January each year.
This effort is made possible through a collaboration between The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network, Turtles Fly Too, Mississippi Aquarium, Institute for Marine Mammals Studies Inc. (IMMS), MS Department of Marine Resources (DMR) and US Fish and Wildlife Services (FWS). The transport contained 45 endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, 25 of which will be going to Mississippi Aquarium and the remaining 20 will be brought to IMMS.
The cold-blooded turtles became trapped when their southbound migration was delayed, forcing them to stay in waters that cooled down gradually as the season progressed. When the turtles were discovered on the shore, the long exposure to cold water caused them to become lethargic and stop eating regularly.
“This cold-stun season has been demanding. Turtles Fly Too has transported almost 500 of the over 800 stranded sea turtles to locations in the south. Securing pilots is becoming challenging due to the volume of flights,” said Leslie J. Weinstein, President of Turtles Fly Too, a nonprofit.
The Mississippi Aquarium Veterinary team will conduct thorough medical exams on the turtles to assess their needs and best recovery plan moving forward. Once the turtles have been rehabilitated and receive all the medical care required they will be released in the Gulf of Mexico. This rehabilitation process can take a few months for a full recovery. The time of release also depends heavily on the gulf waters warming up prior to releasing the turtles.
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