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Aquarium Provides Care for Cold-Stunned Sea Turtles

Staff at the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher are caring for five endangered sea turtles. The Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles were injured in a cold-stunning event along the Massachusetts’s coast in late November.

The Aquarium’s animal care team is providing the turtles with medical care and close monitoring. The animals are beginning to feed and are receiving antibiotics. Initial rehabilitation plans estimate shorter recuperation times, likely a few weeks depending on individual progress, with releases into the warmer waters of the Gulf Stream. The turtles range in size from four to seven pounds.

Sea turtles are reptiles and cannot control their own body temperatures. Cold-stunning can occur when water temperatures drop quickly to below 50 degrees. Cold-stunned turtles become lethargic, experience decreased circulation and heart rates, and may die. They are susceptible to respiratory illness, animal attacks, bacterial and fungal infections. Serious cuts and abrasions may occur if the animal is washed ashore.

“While we’re not a sea turtle rescue facility, our staff has the expertise to assist when the need arises and help save these animals,” Julie Johnson.

The Aquarium, while not a traditional rehabilitation center, collaborates yearly with wildlife organizations and other aquariums to offer space and resources to care for cold-stunned sea turtles. The Aquarium receives no additional funding or staff to assist in the turtle care. Anyone interested in making a donation to assist in the care and rehabilitation of the sea turtles may contact (910) 772-0500 or visit

Cold stunning can occur along the North Carolina coast as well. Anyone who finds a sick, injured or dead sea turtle should contact the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission Sea Turtle Stranding Network at (252) 241-7367.


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