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Aquarium's sea turtle hospital caring for 19 cold-stunned turtle - Live5News.com | Charleston, SC | News, Weather, Sports

Aquarium's sea turtle hospital caring for 19 cold-stunned turtles

Patient #19 AKA “Frosty” Credit: Barb Bergwerf Patient #19 AKA “Frosty” Credit: Barb Bergwerf
Photo source SC Aquarium. Photo source SC Aquarium.

CHARLESTON, SC – The late fall cold weather is having a huge impact on the sea turtle population along the east coast. More than 100 turtles have washed up cold stunned on North Carolina beaches in the past week.

Officials from N.C. turtle conservation programs have reached out to the South Carolina Aquarium's Sea Turtle Rescue Program for help due to the overwhelming number of turtles in their rehabilitation hospitals. 

Fourteen of those turtles were brought to the aquarium's sea turtle hospital Monday night by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. Five of the 14 were transported to the Georgia Sea Turtle Center Tuesday morning and nine will remain in the Aquarium's care until they are medically cleared for release. 

Of those nine turtles, seven are green sea turtles and two are Kemp's ridleys. 

Another turtle was brought to the aquarium Wednesday night. The new patient brings the sea turtle hospital total to 19 sea turtles undergoing rehabilitation, the most the facility has ever treated at once.  The staff has been working for the past week to clear space for the new patients.

Last year the sea turtle hospital cared for six cold stunned turtles. The average length of stay for a sea turtle in rehabilitation is 7-8 months.  When a turtle is deemed healthy enough to survive on its own, it is brought to a local beach to be returned to the ocean where it can rejoin the sea turtle population.

When sea turtles are exposed to cold water temperatures for long periods of time they undergo a hypothermic reaction.  Symptoms of that reaction 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, in cold weather they don't have the ability to warm themselves and that's why in the winter sea turtles migrate to warmer waters typically around the end of October.

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