Jeff Masters Hurricane Blog

Volunteer pilots rescue sea turtles stunned by cold water » Yale Climate Connections


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Hundreds of volunteer pilots across the U.S. have offered their time and planes to fly rescue missions for sea turtles in need of help.

“We are all about taking care of these endangered species,” says Leslie Weinstein, president of Turtles Fly Too.

The nonprofit coordinates emergency flights for sea turtles that wash up on the shores of Cape Cod and elsewhere, suffering from cold-stunning.

It’s a reaction the animals can experience in waters below about 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

“They become lethargic,” Weinstein says. “It starts to shut down their organs.”

And they can die without medical care.

So when stranded turtles are found, Weinstein’s group can be called in to help fly them to rehabilitation centers in the Southeast.

Weinstein says over the years, his group has gotten busier.

“We’re getting larger numbers of them being cold-stunned,” he says.

And climate change may be partly to blame.

Research suggests that as the ocean warms, some turtles are spending more time farther north in the summer and fall. Then when winter temperatures arrive, they may end up stuck in waters colder than they can handle.

So the need for rescue flights is growing, and Weinstein and the other volunteers are ready to help.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media



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