Rare Kemp's ridley sea turtles were recently flown from Boston, Mass., to Galveston, Texas, after a cold snap off the New England coast forced the animals into a lethargic state. Of nearly 1,000 turtles who washed ashore on Cape Cod, half were rescued. The drop in temperature stunned so many turtles that the New England Aquarium and other local turtle rehabilitation centers were overrun.
But for 50 of those turtles, their path to recovery lead them to the Texas coast, nearly 1,900 miles away, where they were flown last week. A private charter flew the turtles stacked in sturdy banana boxes with wet towels. The turtles must have made an impression on the flight over: The pilots were "quite excited" to help unload the injured animals, Lyndesy Howell, a NOAA research biologist in Galveston, told The Dodo. Biologists greeted the critters at the sea turtle lab in Galveston, and have been slowly warming the turtles out of hypothermia. "They're not in great shape," said Ben Higgins, program manager for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration lab, to the AP.
After the turtles arrived in Galveston, the caretakers began treating the reptiles for pneumonia and skin lesions with antibiotics. From now until next spring, biologists will feed the animals a protein-packed diet of squid, shrimp, scallops and crabs. Once the turtles have regained their strength, NOAA will release the animals into the nearby Gulf of Mexico, which is home to the majority of the Kemp's ridley sea turtle population.
Range of Kemp's ridleys. (Credit: NOAA)