Forty critically endangered sea turtles were brought to Florida after suffering from “cold stunning” off the coast of Massachusetts.
“Cold stunning” is a hypothermic reaction that occurs when sea turtles are exposed to cold water for a prolonged time.
The juvenile Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles were found stranded on New England beaches and were flown from Cape Cod to the Florida Keys. They arrived on Saturday afternoon to get warm and receive treatment, according to a news release from Florida Keys spokesman Andy Newman.
“Hundreds of turtles are washing up on the beach,” Bette Zirkelbach, manager of the Turtle Hospital in Marathon, Florida, said.
“More than the capacity that the aquariums up there can take care of, so they are being flown to the Turtle Hospital to warm up and have care for these critical animals.”
Kemp’s Ridley turtles are the smallest species of sea turtles, only measuring two feet in length and about 100 pounds, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service. They are also the most endangered, and the FWS blames their decline primarily on human activities.
“Cold stunning” can be harmful to the animals because it can cause turtles to stop eating and swimming, Zirkelbach said.
Depending on their condition, Zirkelbach said the turtles could be at the hospital anywhere from 30 days to a year. The sickest turtles will get additional testing to find out what kind of infections or other ailments they may have.
“We’re hoping, flippers crossed,” Zirkelbach said, “that they all go back to sea.”
CNN’s Melissa Alonso contributed to this report.