Cold stunned New England turtles making their way to SC Aquarium

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The South Carolina Aquarium Sea Turtle Rescue Program staff is working to make space for turtles affected by a major cold stunning event happening along the Massachusetts coast after temperatures dropped severely last week.

Sea Turtle Hospital Manager Kelly Thorvalson is working with stranding and rescue coordinators in the Northeast.  More than 100 sea turtles have been brought into the New England Aquarium after being found stranded and cold stunned on Cape Cod beaches.  Several of the animals have been transported to nearby facilities for care, and more could head to the SC Aquarium's Sea Turtle Hospital, which is working to make room for the chilly turtles.

Thorvalson is coordinating a multi-agency effort involving rehabilitated sea turtles ready for release.  Two turtles that were being cared for at the Virginia Aquarium will arrive at the South Carolina Aquarium today.  Thorvalson will take these turtles, along with May, a Kemp's Ridley turtle from the South Carolina Aquarium's Sea Turtle Hospital, to Cape Canaveral, Florida on Thursday.

Cold stunning happens when sea turtles are exposed to cold water temperatures for long periods of time.  They undergo a hypothermic reaction, the symptoms of which include a decreased heart rate, decreased circulation, lethargy, all followed by shock, pneumonia and in the worst case scenarios, death.

Sea turtles are affected by cold stunning because they are cold-blooded reptiles that depend on their environment to regulate their body temperature.  Because of that reaction, in cold weather turtles don't have the ability to warm themselves.  Sea turtles migrate to warmer waters typically around the end of October.

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