Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
Tuesday, December 9, 2014
Sea turtles to be released

Nine of 30 sick sea turtles that were shipped to the Marathon Turtle Hospital earlier this month to be rehabilitated have made a full recovery and will be released this week off Northern Florida.

The nine turtles were transported from the Marathon Turtle Hospital to the Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach, where they are scheduled to be released later this week, according to Marathon Turtle Hospital Manager Bette Zirkelbach.

However, the news is not as positive for three of the Kemp's ridley turtles. They died last weekend from pneumonia-related illnesses, Zirkelbach.

The turtles were transported from the Cape Cod area of New England in mid-November, after the temperatures dropped into the mid-30s to low 40s.

Kemp's ridley sea turtles spend the warmer months in Cape Cod waters and migrate south for the winter. But some turtles get trapped by the hook shape of Cape Cod on their voyage south, and they become hypothermic once water temperatures drop, according to Zirkelbach.

The remaining 18 turtles at the hospital are in "guarded condition" with 10 of them still on medication, Zirkelbach said.

"We are hopeful that they are going to make it," she said.

All total, 193 juvenile sea turtles were taken to South Florida from Cape Cod and treated at various facilities across the state with the goal of releasing the turtles into the much warmer Florida waters, Zirkelbach said.

Turtle Hospital officials were told to be in a "turn and burn" mode, and release the turtles back into the wild as soon possible because more turtles will be on the way, Zirkelbach said. According to the Cape Cod Times, nearly 1,000 juvenile turtles have been rescued.

The Marathon Turtle Hospital can accommodate more than 100 sick and injured turtles, Zirkelbach said.

"We are really prepared for this type of situation," she said.

The turtles were suffering shock-like symptoms from the extreme cold, Zirkelbach said.

A Coast Guard airplane transported the turtles, housed in banana boxes, from the New England Aquarium after they were rescued from Cape Cod Bay beaches.

The juvenile turtles -- about a foot in length -- were taken to various facilities in Florida, including Disney World, Sea World and the Miami Seaquarium, according to the Turtle Hospital.

The number of turtles rescued off Cape Cod so far this year is four times the amount for the typical turtle stranding season, Zirkelbach said.

tohara@keysnews.com

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