A total of 30 juvenile sea turtles arrived in North Carolina Sunday to be transferred to facilities where they will undergo rehabilitation to help them recover after being found cold stunned in waters in the Cape Cod area
May the Force be with them.
With Star Wars-themed names like Chewy, Han, Lucas and Princess Leia, the 20 juvenile sea turtles to arrive Monday at the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center in Surf City have a little extra help in their rehabilitation.
Jean Beasley, the center’s executive director, said they name the sea turtles in their care to create a connection with the volunteers who watch over them. The smallest of the arrivals on Monday got a big name.
“The smallest turtle weighed about three pounds — about the size of a bread plate — and we named him Darth Vader,” Beasley said.
Beasley said they have a great team of volunteers who worked hard to get the turtles settled in and fed.
She said all the turtles were in pretty good shape but still have a long way to go before they are fully recovered and able to be released back into the ocean.
“I think they’ll be with us for months to them back to eating well, all the nicks and bumps are healed and their blood counts are normal,” Beasley said, noting that many of the turtles are anemic.
A total of 30 juvenile sea turtles arrived in North Carolina Sunday to be transferred to facilities where they will undergo rehabilitation to help them recover after being found cold stunned in waters in the Cape Cod area.
The sea turtle hospital is caring for 20 of them and the others were taken to the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores.
Sarah Finn, a coastal wildlife biologist and stranding coordinator with the North Carolina Sea Turtle Project, said most are among the world’s most endangered species of sea turtles.
“There are a few (green turtles) but most are Kemp’s ridley,” said Finn of the new arrivals, which are listed as critically endangered.
The turtles were flown into Beaufort Sunday by a volunteer pilot and were seen by the veterinarians at the N.C. State University Center for Marine Science and Technology (CMAST) in Morehead City.
“They underwent an assessment because we didn’t know what condition they would be in or what facility would be most appropriate for them,” she said.
She said the turtles were undergoing treatment for several days before they were strong enough to travel. That initial rehabilitation has helped the turtles but “time will tell” how well their recovery goes, Finn said.
The volunteers at the sea turtle hospital were ready for their new admissions and had the empty tanks clean and sanitized.
Beasley stayed in contact with the veterinarians Sunday and said the sea turtle hospital will be giving its new admissions the best care possible to get them on the road to recovery so they can be released back into the ocean.
“We are ready for them,” she said in a text message Monday morning as they awaited the arrival of the cold-stunned sea turtles.
Finn said North Carolina hasn’t had any cold stunned sea turtles reported off the coast so far this winter.
“It has been so warm here we haven’t had any,” she said.
But further north, there have been more than 200 cold-stunned turtles off the Massachusetts coast since late November/early December, turtles that didn’t make their way south to warmer waters, Finn said.
“They have had cold stuns recurring for several weeks,” she said.
The Boston Globe reported Monday that 120 cold stunned sea turtles are recovering after being rescued by the Massachusetts Audubon Society volunteers from the shores of Cape Cod. The turtles were taken to the New England Aquarium’s animal care facility.
The 120 from this weekend are in addition to the more than 200 already rescued.
Finn said the Cape Cod area has seen quite a few but, fortunately not the numbers seen last winter, when there were more than 1,200 sea turtle strandings, with a number of those sea turtles cared for in North Carolina at that time as well.
Beasley said that while there have not been as many cold-stunned turtles so far this winter, facilities up north are reaching out to outside facilities for assistance now so that they don’t become overwhelmed should the strandings continue.
“One of the reasons they wanted to get the turtles out to other facilities is that last year when they had such a large number of cold stuns they got overwhelmed before they could get help from other facilities,” she said.
Beasley said they are glad to help and their latest patients have the Force on their side with bold new names.
“The (Star Wars) movie coincided with their arrival and it just seemed natural,” Beasley said.