The endangered Kemp's Ridley sea turtle is getting a much-needed check-up. The New England Aquarium has been treating hundreds of beached sea turtles. In Cape Cod, in November and December when weather turns cold, inhabitants start to witness storms coming out of the North. The water temperatures start to drop. An unlikely phenomenon happens where tropical and sub-tropical juvenile sea turtles start washing up on the beaches.
Most of the rescued turtles suffer from cold stunning after being in the cold water for a long period of time. The term “cold stunning” refers to the hypothermic reaction that occurs when sea turtles are exposed to prolonged cold-water temperatures. Some experts think New England's spike in cold-stunned turtles is a climate change story with a twist: the hook-like projection of Cape Cod into the Atlantic helps trap turtles drawn there by warming waters but weakened when the ocean cools down.
The symptoms include decreased heart rate and weakness followed by shock and possible death. At times, they also get infections and pneumonia.
In the past 15 years, every five years the number of stranding goes up by three fourth. Over the last five years, average of stranded sea turtles has gone up to 700.
The Gulf of Maine which is bounded by Cape Cod up to Canadian Maritimes are warming particularly fast as per the recent study. Hence, this is allowing more of sea turtles to recruit in off the Gulf stream and finally end up in Cape Cod waters.
Once the Ridley sea turtles, the most endangered species in the world are recovered, volunteers drive them back to warmer waters.
Image Credit: Infoturtle
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