Since the beginning of the year, the Texas State Aquarium has admitted and cared for nearly 800 cold-stunned sea turtles, releasing more than 700 sea turtles back into their natural habitat.
Marking an all-time record for the aquarium’s wildlife rehabilitation team, the aquarium took in more than a third of sea turtles recovered in Texas’ recent cold snap.
As cold weather swept through Texas in early January, more than 2,000 green sea turtles, afflicted by a hypothermic reaction called cold-stunning, were found by rescuers through Texas.
Dr. Donna Shaver, Chief of the Padre Island National Seashore’s Division of Sea Turtle Science and Recovery, collaborated with the Aquarium and other conservation partners to receive, maintain, and analyze records of cold stunned turtles throughout the state.
In the first week of January, 755 of these sea turtles were taken in by the Texas State Aquarium’s Wildlife Rescue and Recovery Center. Staff and volunteers at the aquarium worked around the clock to transport sea turtles from the Padre Island National Seashore and other facilities, document their health conditions, and treat them for cold-stunning.
The sea turtles were housed in the aquarium’s specialized rehabilitation center where their condition could be closely monitored and they could gradually recover to a healthy body temperature.
The aquarium says that thanks to the skill and dedication of their wildlife rehabilitation team, the majority of the cold-stunned sea turtles made a full recovery and were soon ready to be released.
On January 5, nearly 200 sea turtles were released offshore with the help of the U.S. Coast Guard. The next day, 343 sea turtles were released at Padre Island National Seashore. Another 130 green sea turtles were released at Padre Island National Seashore on January 7 at an event that drew more than a thousand members of the public. Several smaller-scale releases also took place on January 8 and 9.
Between January 5 and January 9, a total of 716 sea turtles taken in and treated at the Aquarium were returned to their natural habitat.
As of January 10, 21 sea turtles in critical condition remain at the Wildlife Rescue and Recovery Center.
These sea turtles have various ailments ranging from wounds to missing flippers which require additional supportive care.
The Texas State Aquarium’s Wildlife Rescue and Recovery Center asks beach-goers and other residents to be on the lookout for stranded sea turtles this winter season.
To report a stranded sea turtle on North Padre Island or in the upper Laguna Madre area, call: 361-949-8173 ext. 226. For other areas, call 1-866-TURTLE-5.