Texas has been battling freezing temperatures that have brought huge dumps of snow, frozen water pipes in homes and caused blackouts. It seems that not even sea life was safe from the icy conditions – a team of kind volunteers have been busy recusing nearly 5,000 sea turtles that washed up on the beaches around South Padre Island.
As reported in National Geographic:
“Sea turtles rely on ambient heat to regulate their body temperatures, and when the water dips below 50 degrees Fahrenheit—rare in the Laguna Madre, the estuary around the island—sea turtles’ heart rates slow, rendering them paralysed but conscious.”
Battling to save the turtles without any power or heat, the volunteers carried the little dudes from the shoreline into the South Padre Island Convention Centre, which is closed due to the current pandemic and therefore made for a perfect rescue centre for the turtles. The centre provided room to shelter 4,200 turtles of all shapes and sizes. It took at least 10 men to hoist one particular turtle, who was 150 years old and weighed more than 400 pounds (181kg).
Without the help of the volunteers, the island’s sea turtle population would have been decimated, wiping out four decades of conservation work to protect the region’s threatened turtles, which are also at risk from boat strikes and entanglement in fishing gear. The volunteers at the centre are working on warming the cold-stunned turtles up gradually, using tarps.
Wendy Knight, executive director of Sea Turtle, Inc., a nonprofit education, rehabilitation, and conservation organisation on the island that is directing the sea turtle rescue efforts, said she’s been ‘in awe’ at the outpouring of support from local residents:
“We have people who have not had power or water in their own homes in three to four days working 15 to 18 hours a day to save turtles. The gas stations are now out of gas, and the grocery stories are out of water, and people are still showing up. That says something about the calibre of a community.”
The team will continue to monitor the turtles until the weather is warm enough to release them back into the Gulf of Mexico.