Boston aquarium rescues dozens of rare sea turtles

BOSTON Fri Nov 26, 2010 10:26am EST

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BOSTON (Reuters) - More than two dozen rare sea turtles who were cold, hungry and lost were rescued over the Thanksgiving holiday after having washed ashore on Cape Cod, a spokesman for the New England Aquarium said on Friday.

The Kemp's ridley species of turtles are being treated at an animal care center south of Boston for hypothermia, dehydration, and malnourishment, aquarium spokesman Tony LaCasse said.

"These animals are very sick," he said, noting at least half of them are suffering from pneumonia and all have bacterial infections.

Thanks to strong northwest winds earlier this week, the charcoal black turtles weighing between two and eight pounds were washed onto beaches along the upper arm of the Cape, a favorite seaside vacation spot in Massachusetts.

While these types of turtles are typically rescued every year on Cape Cod, LaCasse said this year's situation was unusual because so many animals washed up at one time. Strong northwest winds drove the turtles to shore.

Over the past month volunteers who walk the beaches looking for the animals had found 34 turtles. Over the last two days alone they found about 25, LaCasse said, adding that more are expected to be saved in the next days.

The turtles' body temperatures are normally in the low to mid 70s Fahrenheit, but these turtles, who had tried and failed to find their way south, had temperatures only in the low 50s.

They will now spend three to nine months at the animal center where their body temperatures will be raised slowly and they will be treated with medicine before they are released back into the ocean.

Kemp's ridley turtles are considered the smallest marine turtles in the world, and highly endangered.

(Reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss; Editing by Jerry Norton)

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