TITUSVILLE, FL (WCSC) - Six sea turtles returned to the Atlantic Ocean Wednesday after spending months at the South Carolina Aquarium's Sea Turtle Rescue Program.
As that program marks its 15th anniversary, the latest release brings the total number of rescued turtles to 150, according to aquarium spokesperson Kate Dittloff.
The turtles were part of a massive cold-stun event along the New England coast in November in which more than 1,000 sea turtles were found near death from hypothermia along the beaches and near shore waters of Massachusetts, Dittloff said.
The five Kemp's ridleys and one green sea turtle were released into the ocean from the Cape Canaveral National Seashore. Members from the Aquarium's Sea Turtle Rescue team drove the turtles to Florida, Dittloff said.
Sea turtles are cold-blooded, which means they must depend on the water temperature to regulate their own body temperature. When the cold-blooded reptiles don't migrate south to warmer waters quickly enough before coastal water temperatures drop, the sea turtles can suffer hypothermia, also known as cold-stunning, Dittloff said.
Symptoms of cold-stunning include a decreased heart and respiration rates, decreased circulation, and lethargy, all followed by shock, pneumonia and, in worst case scenarios, death.
Kemp's ridleys are the most endangered sea turtle species.
The turtles were all juveniles and were treated with fluids, antibiotics and vitamin injections until they were healthy enough to be returned to the sea, Dittloff said.