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Houston Zoo among centers selected to help treat dozens of endangered sea turtles rescued from Cape Cod

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Jackelin Reyna/Houston Zoo

The Houston Zoo was selected as one of the facilities that will help rehabilitate sea turtles found on Cape Cod.

HOUSTON – Over 100 endangered sea turtles were flown to Texas after they were found on the Cape Cod suffering from hypothermia and multiple other issues brought on by temperature drops.

According to a Houston Zoo news release, the turtles, which are cold-blooded, were struggling to maintain body temperature as the water temperatures dropped causing them to become lethargic and have difficulty swimming.

Many of the rescued turtles were diagnosed with pneumonia and others suffered injuries from being washed against rocks. Due to the number of rescued turtles, rehabilitation facilities in New England were at capacity, so the turtles had to be sent elsewhere.

“We’ve already transported more than 200 turtles out of the state, so we are running out of options for long-term care. The Texas rehabilitation facilities have generously offered their assistance, which is a huge help to us. This transport was one of the largest ever,” says Kate Sampson, NOAA Fisheries sea turtle stranding and disentanglement coordinator for the Greater Atlantic Region

The transport contained 120 sea turtles, 118 of which were Kemp’s ridleys, which have been listed as an endangered species since 1970. According to the release, “the population experienced a rapid and significant decline between the late 1940s and the mid-1980s. This dramatic decline resulted from intensive egg collection, killing of nesting females, and bycatch and drowning in the shrimp fleets of the U.S. and Mexico.”

Of the remaining two turtles, one is a green sea turtle, and one appears to be a hybrid, according to the release.

The transport plane arrived in Galveston where 30 turtles were unloaded. Of those, 10 went to Texas A&M University in Galveston and 20 went to the Houston Zoo. The remaining 90 were distributed to different locations in Port Isabel, Corpus Christi and Dallas.

“The Houston Zoo Sea Turtle Hospital keepers will be responsible for daily care of the 19 Kemp’s ridleys and the single hybrid turtle,” according to the release. “The zoo’s veterinary team will oversee their treatments. The Houston Zoo’s medical team will also assist the Texas A&M University at Galveston team with veterinary care.”

Each turtle was given a physical exam after arriving at their location and are all said to be doing well, according to the release. They are expected to be released into the Gulf of Mexico as soon as they are healthy enough to be returned to the wild.


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