Fourteen sea turtles returned to the ocean on Sunday thanks to help from conservation groups and the U.S. Coast Guard, who used a “turtle taxi” to transport them.
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Nine Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles who were cold-stunned when the water turned frigid to the north in the New England area were brought to North Carolina for rehabilitation. Along with the nine Kemp’s Ridley turtles were one loggerhead and one green sea turtle who were also rehabilitated in North Carolina, according to a Facebook post from the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island.
Cold stunning is a hypothermic reaction that happens when sea turtles are exposed to cold water over a long period of time. Spending time in cold water is a recipe for disaster for the cold-blooded turtles, which can experience decreased heart rate and circulation, lethargy, shock, pneumonia and even death, according to NOAA.
Along with those 11 turtles were three young loggerheads who had been educational ambassadors at North Carolina aquariums.
The turtles were transported in containers — including a large black container emblazoned with yellow letters that spell out “Turtle Taxi” on its side — that are pulled on wheeled carts.
The turtles were packed up with care, and covered with blankets and towels to keep them comfortable for the journey to Virginia.
When the turtles reached Virginia, they “hitched a ride out to warmer waters (70 degrees Fahrenheit, to be exact) with the crew of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Heron,” according to the aquarium. Members of the Coast Guard carefully unpacked and lowered the turtles into the ocean.
The Network for Endangered Sea Turtles (NEST) and North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, along with the aquarium and the Coast Guard worked together to rescue and reintroduce the turtles safely, according to the aquarium.