MARATHON (CBSMiami/FKNB) — Fifteen critically endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtles have arrived in the subtropical Florida Keys to convalesce and warm up after being rescued from cold coastal waters off Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
Suffering from pneumonia as a result of “cold stunning,” the juvenile turtles, ranging from two to 10 pounds apiece, were flown to Florida Keys Marathon Airport, arriving Monday evening from Norwood, Mass.
After landing, the reptiles were transferred to the Keys-based Turtle Hospital in Marathon.
“Cold stunning” is a hypothermic reaction that occurs when sea turtles are exposed to cold water for a prolonged time, said Turtle Hospital manager Bette Zirkelbach.
“They’re going to be treated at The Turtle Hospital with broad spectrum antibiotics,” Zirkelbach said. “We’re going to give them vitamins, a healthy diet and we’re going to keep them in warm water, 75 degrees, that will warm them up and let those medications do their work.”
The reptiles were rescued within the last few weeks and initially treated by New England Aquarium personnel.
Kemp’s ridley sea turtles are the most endangered of turtle species, Zirkelbach said.
The rehabilitation is expected to take up to two months, according to Zirkelbach, adding that the reptiles are likely to be released in waters off Florida after they recover.
The effort to fly the turtles to the Keys was made possible by a group of private pilots, dubbed “Sea Turtle Lift Off,” who donated their aircraft, fuel and time. The turtles were transported in towel-lined banana boxes.
The Turtle Hospital opened in September of 1986 as the world’s first state-licensed veterinary sea turtle hospital. The facility has since treated and released more than 2,000 injured sea turtles and assisted scores of hatchlings gone astray after exiting their nests.
The high temperature Tuesday in the Keys is expected to be in the mid 80s, according to the Key West National Weather Service Office.
The Florida Keys News Bureau contributed to this report.