Imagine being in the water when it’s this cold outside. The recent freezing temperatures are causing many sea turtles in the bays to become stunned by the cold. The Amos Rehabilitation Keep (ARK) at The University of Texas Marine Science Institute has rescued and is currently rehabilitating close to 250 cold-stunned green sea turtles. The staff at the ARK has been working tirelessly to facilitate renovations of the facilities after the destruction from Hurricane Harvey. We were planning to open the ARK today and it was fortunate timing for the cold stunned turtles.
Sea turtles are cold‐blooded reptiles and require warm temperature to stay alive. When the water dips below 60 degrees Fahrenheit, turtles start to get in trouble and can have decreased heart rate, circulation, and exhibit lethargy followed by shock, pneumonia and possible death. Water temperature that reaches 50 degrees Fahrenheit are almost always fatal. The Gulf of Mexico water has been getting warmer over the years, which is usually good news for sea turtles because they don’t have to migrate and can stay here year‐round to feed on abundant algae and invertebrates found on the Packery and Port Aransas jetties. This however is a double‐edged sword, turtles can also be trapped when the temperature drops, leaving them stunned by the cold and risking death.
The ARK along with the Padre Island NS Division of Sea Turtle Science & Recovery, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, SeaWorld, Texas State Aquarium, Texas Sealife Center, Mission-Aransas Reserve, and the hundreds of volunteers braving the cold weather have been essential in saving many of these endangered sea turtles. The turtles are taking up all the available space that there is to offer with several turtles per kiddie pool. The ARK will house and rehabilitate these turtles until their internal temperatures rise and are able to be released back to the Gulf of Mexico.
We wish to extend a sincere thank you to all of the volunteers and our partners who have helped collect and transport sea turtles during the freezing and difficult conditions.