Thousands Of Sea Turtles Rescued

Posted on February 25th 2021

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Volunteers have rallied to help save thousands of sea turtles washed up on beaches around South Padre island in the Gulf of Mexico.

Record number of turtles rescued

Since records began in 1980 the USA’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has not recorded so many turtles needing rescue. Across Texas over 7000 turtles have needed saving, with nearly 5000 on South Padre island alone. The turtles have run in to difficulty because of a sudden severe drop in water temperature.

A rare cold front swept in from the Arctic and reached Texas causing temperatures to drop. The water temperature fell below 50 degrees Fahrenheit which stuns cold blooded animals like sea turtles. Their heart rate slows and although they are still conscious they fall in to a sort of paralysis. They need to keep moving and raising their heads to breathe but are unable to do so, making it a critical situation.

Conservationists leading the rescue

Sea Turtle Inc is a non profit education rehabilitation and conservation organisation situated on South Padre island that has been organising the recent rescue efforts. Turtles of all ages and sizes have been rescued and are taking up every available space at the rescue centre. Most are still not moving. The islands convention centre is also being used, again all space is taken up due to the large numbers of turtles rescued.

If the turtles hadn’t been rescued the islands turtle population would have been destroyed, ending decades of conservation work. The usual challenge for conservation efforts is around turtles getting caught in fishing gear, not cold water. This is a rare phenomenon.

There is a great challenge in caring for all the turtles. The cold weather has knocked out all power and heating on the island. However, in the turtles case it is actually good to slowly warm up following being stunned by the cold. Just being inside even without heating is much warmer than being in the cold sea.

Massive rescue operation

Boats patrolled the waters surrounding the island picking up cold stunned turtles floating on the surface. Other volunteers simultaneously scoured the islands beaches picking up turtles that had washed up and were in distress. Thousands of the islands residents lent a hand.

Concern about prolonged cold

The timing for rereleasing the turtles back in to the water is crucial. They can’t be released until the water is warmer again. It needs to be at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Some of the smaller turtles have started feel revived after a few days, but most are still in a state of sleep. The islanders are hoping the waters warm up quickly before they have 5000 turtles awake and needing food!

If you are interested in learning more about how to help protect turtles please visit our Adopt a Turtle page.

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