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Endangered turtles warming up in Florida after being found cold-stunned

The turtles were brought to the Keys from the waters off Cape Cod.

MARATHON, Fla. — Forty endangered sea turtles found "cold-stunned" in the water off Cape Cod, Mass., are now warming up in the Florida Keys.

CBS Miami reports the Kemp’s ridley sea turtles were rescued and brought to Florida Keys Marathon Airport on Saturday. The Turtle Hospital is taking care of the animals until they're ready to be released.

"Hundreds of turtles are washing up on the beach," Turtle Hospital manager Bette Zirkelbach told the Florida Keys News Bureau. "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."

A group of private pilots called "Turtles Fly Too" donated planes, fuel and time to make the rescue mission possible. The turtles were transported in boxes with room to roam and to breathe.

Credit: AP
In this photo provided by the Florida Keys News Bureau, staff at the Florida Keys-based Turtle Hospital examine many of 40 cold-stunned Kemp's ridley sea turtles that arrived at the hospital Saturday, Nov. 28, 2020, in Marathon, Fla. The turtles were rescued from beaches in Cape Cod, Mass., and flown to the Keys by an all-volunteer organization dubbed "Turtles Can Fly Too." Additional Kemp's ridley sea turtles were sent to other Florida facilities as well. "Cold stunning" is a hypothermic reaction that occurs when sea turtles are exposed to cold water for a prolonged time, according to Turtle Hospital officials. It typically causes them to stop eating and swimming. (Bob Care/Florida Keys News Bureau via AP)

Zirkelbach said some of the sea turtles will need more testing to determine whether they have pneumonia or other infections. She said they could be at the hospital anywhere from 30 days to a year.

"Once we warm them up, they’re going to go to another part of Florida to be returned to the ocean and that’s our goal with these 40 turtles," Zirkelbach said.

Cold stunning happens when sea turtles are exposed to cold water for an extended period of time. They're cold blooded, so they cannot regulate their body temperature. It can cause the turtles to stop doing most activities, including eating and swimming. Additionally, Kemp’s ridley turtles are the most endangered type of sea turtles. They are protected under federal and Florida law.

Credit: AP
In this photo provided by the Florida Keys News Bureau, one of 40 cold-stunned Kemp's ridley sea turtles swims in a child's pool after arriving at the Florida Keys-based Turtle Hospital Saturday, Nov. 28, 2020, in Marathon, Fla. The turtles were rescued from beaches in Cape Cod, Mass., and flown to the Keys by an all-volunteer organization dubbed "Turtles Can Fly Too." Additional Kemp's ridley sea turtles were sent to other Florida facilities as well. "Cold stunning" is a hypothermic reaction that occurs when sea turtles are exposed to cold water for a prolonged time, according to Turtle Hospital officials. It typically causes them to stop eating and swimming. (Bob Care/Florida Keys News Bureau via AP)

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