Thousands of 'cold-stunned' sea turtles rescued from Texas storm

WATCH: Thousands of cold-stunned sea turtles have been saved off the coast of Texas, where temperatures have plummeted. Mike Drolet explains how a conservation group and billionaire Elon Musk came to the rescue.

Volunteers in Texas have rescued some 4,700 sea turtles off the state’s southern coast, where a winter storm left the reptiles stunned by the cold and on the verge of death.

Thousands of large turtles are now being housed at a convention centre on South Padre Island, as locals are trying to save the cold-blooded creatures by bringing their body temperatures back from the brink.

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“It’s an unprecedented event,” Wendy Knight, head of Sea Turtle Inc. conservation centre, told Reuters. Knight says about 100 to 500 sea turtles will typically wash up on Texas beaches due to the cold each year, but this month’s storm has taken a much greater toll on the local population.

The state was hammered this week by a days-long storm that has overtaxed its power grid, leaving millions of Texans without heat, light or electricity.

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The South Padre Island Convention Center and Visitors Bureau still has heat, and thus has become a defacto warming centre for the turtles. The reptiles are being kept in kiddy pools, enclosures and anywhere else that volunteers can find space.

And the turtles just keep coming in, with more than 1,000 added to the count since Wednesday.

“Every 15 minutes or less there’s another truck or SUV that pulls up,” Ed Caum, executive director of the centre, told the Associated Press.

Sea turtles are shown at a rescue centre on South Padre Island, Texas, on Feb. 16, 2021.

Sea turtles are shown at a rescue centre on South Padre Island, Texas, on Feb. 16, 2021.

Sea Turtle Inc/Facebook

Caum added that he does not expect to save them all.

“We’re trying to do the best we can to save as many turtles as possible,” he said.

Cold temperatures present a major danger for the cold-blooded turtles, according to Knight. They become more lethargic as the temperature drops, and they begin to show symptoms of hypothermia as they get closer to zero.

“You could put a cold-stunned turtle in a half an inch of water and they’d drown,” she told the New York Times.

Thousands of turtles are shown at the South Padre Island Convention Center in Texas on Feb. 17, 2021.

Thousands of turtles are shown at the South Padre Island Convention Center in Texas on Feb. 17, 2021.

Ed Caum/Facebook

The turtles have also been packed into the Sea Turtle Inc. rescue centre and SpaceX launch facilities on the island.

Knight hailed Elon Musk‘s SpaceX for dropping off generators at Sea Turtle Inc. to keep the lights and the heaters on through the storm. SpaceX employees have also rescued hundreds of turtles, she said.

There are no immediate warm spells on the horizon, so Knight and her collaborators are simply going to hang on and try to save as many turtles as they can.

with files from Reuters and The Associated Press

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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