The Town of Pine Knoll Shores loves its turtles. The North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores loves its turtles. Five out of the seven sea turtle species worldwide can be found along the North Carolina coast .
So what happens when the world decides to make life really tough for hundreds of sea turtles – mostly juvenile green sea turtles with some loggerheads and Kemp’s ridley turtles thrown in – with a cold-stun event?
The Aquarium leaps into action, that’s what!
Ok, actually, it was the Aquarium staff, not the Aquarium itself …
So here’s what happened. Winter weather arrived suddenly on the Crystal Coast this week, so suddenly that in just a two-day period, more than 600 cold-stunned turtles were caught near shore. These sea dwellers could not swim because they got too cold with the sudden drop in temperature. It’s not hypothermia as happens in humans because turtles are not warm blooded but the effect is much the same.
The North Carolina Aquariums (not just the one in Pine Knoll Shores) took in nearly 450 of those turtles that needed help. Only the number made this unusual because the Aquariums regularly provide care for weak or injured turtles. “Conservation is a cornerstone of our mission,” said North Carolina Aquariums Director David Griffin. “In this event, the three Aquariums and the Pier were ready and willing to lend help in the care of these turtles.”
The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission is leading the effort to rescue and rehabilitate the sea turtles. They were not alone as many organizations pitched in to help: North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island, Jennette’s Pier, North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores, North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher, Center for Marine Sciences and Technology, North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Cape Lookout National Seashore, Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Hatteras Island Wildlife Rehabilitation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Marine Fisheries Service.
Many of the turtles made a quick recovery, but some need additional time and care. The Aquariums’ staff and veterinary teams are giving them all regular health checks and placing a microchip tag in each one before returning them to the sea.