TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The Florida Aquarium returned five rehabilitated sea turtles to the ocean on Wednesday.
The Kemp’s ridley sea turtles were found stranded and cold-stunned along Cape Cod in Massachusetts last December, according to a release from the aquarium.
Cold-stunning happens when cold-blooded animals, like turtles, are exposed to frigid water and air temperatures, according to the aquarium. Cold-blooded creatures have no way of regulating their own body temperature and will experience a hypothermic reaction when exposed to cold, which could cause lethargy, slowed heart rate and circulation, pneumonia, secondary infections, or even death.
The New England Aquarium in Boston transferred the reptiles to the Florida Aquarium via Turtles Fly Too. Turtles Fly Too is a nonprofit that partners with wildlife organizations and officials to transport endangered turtle species.
The Mote Marine Laboratory in Clearwater initially cared for one of the turtles before it was transferred to the Florida Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Center. After five months of care, the turtles were ready to be released into the wild.
The five turtles traveled across the state in large plastic bins before reaching their destination, Anastasia Island State Park in St. Augustine, on Florida’s Atlantic coast. Aquarium staff and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials released the group along the shoreline, exchanging high-fives as their former patients took off into the sea.
Kemp’s ridley sea turtles are the world’s smallest sea turtle species, according to the aquarium, and are also among the most endangered.