12 sea turtles to be released this week from NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher

Pets and Animals

Animal Care Team members, Stacey Murray-Rester and Savannah Simpson care for cold-stunned green sea turtles undergoing rehabilitation at the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher. (Source: NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher)

KURE BEACH, N.C. (WECT) – A dozen turtles in the care of the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher will be released back into the wild Thursday.

The aquarium says seven green sea turtles and five Kemp’s ridley sea turtles were hurt in two separate cold-stunning events. The Kemp’s ridleys were rescued from New England in late November and the green turtles were sent down from Cape Lookout in mid-December.

Cold stunning happens when water temperatures drop suddenly below 50 degrees. Because the reptiles cannot regulate their own body temperature, they become lethargic, more susceptible to disease, experience issues with blood circulation and can even die.

Since the turtles arrived, they have been treated by the medical team, put on a special diet and closely monitored for health issues.

A vet gave the 12 turtles the green-light to be released back into the wild this week. They have been tagged and will be taken to Morehead City by NC Wildlife Resources Commission Thursday and turned over to the US Coast Guard to be taken to the warm waters of the Gulf Stream.

“Our staff adapts and adjusts to care for cold-stunned sea turtles when the need arises, despite not being a traditional sea turtle rehabilitation center,” said Aquarium Curator Julie Smith in a press release. “All sea turtle species are critically threatened or endangered globally and the care the aquarium and our partners provide has a positive impact on saving animals.”

The aquarium is still taking care of four more turtles that are not yet healthy enough to be released.

Cold stunning can occur anywhere along the North Carolina coast, the aquarium says. Anyone who finds a sick, injured or dead sea turtle should contact the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission Sea Turtle Stranding Network at (252) 241-7367.

Copyright 2020 WECT. All rights reserved.

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