Cold stun occurs when the water temperature reaches 55 degrees or lower, and is similar to hypothermia in humans. When the water drops below the normal body temperature of the cold-blooded sea turtles, their metabolic rate (the amount of energy expended in a given period) consequently drops, and the turtles will stop swimming and eating. The turtles are left helplessly floating, and sometimes wash ashore.
Once the waters had warmed, the sea turtles were released near where they were found. A total of 48 sea turtles have been released locally so far, and nine more turtles were rehabilitated by the CMA and have been released off Juno Beach on Florida’s East Coast.
On January 21st, 47 sea turtles (46 green turtles and one hawksbill) were released off Honeymoon Island. The released turtles quickly and robustly took to the open water. With so many turtles to be released, CMA staff and volunteers formed a human chain from the CMA van down into the water. 48 sea turtles had been scheduled for release, but one was seen to be floundering, and was held back to ensure a full rehabilitation.
One week later, a 120 pound Loggerhead named JoJo was released on Clearwater Beach, where she had been found. JoJo’s release came later than the others because the protected waters off Honeymoon Island warmed faster than the gulf waters off Clearwater Beach.
Named after CMA’s Director of Education Joe Malo and Joe Widlansky, the sea turtle biologist who found her, JoJo recovered quickly under CMA care. The CMA does not normally name animals after their staff, but in this case they could not resist. Both Joes were on hand to help release JoJo. “She promised to write every month, but you know how they are,” joked Joe Malo.
The rehabilitation process for turtles is similar to human hypothermia, and includes placing the turtles in cool showers to gradually raise their body temperature, which can take about twenty-four hours.
For more information, visit www.seewinter.com.