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Mystic Aquarium treating six rescued sea turtles

Mystic — Mystic Aquarium announced Wednesday that it is treating six critically endangered Kemp's ridley sea turtles that were rescued Dec. 2 from a beach in Wellfleet, Mass., on Cape Cod.

The turtles, which were found "cold-stunned" or suffering from hypothermia, initially were brought to the National Marine Life Center in Bourne, Mass. The aquarium's Animal Rescue Team then transported the turtles to the aquarium's Milne Ocean Science and Conservation Center on Sunday.

The aquarium said its veterinary staff has examined the turtles, performed blood tests and took radiographs of the animals to determine if they have any additional health issues that need to be treated. The aquarium said the goal is to return the turtles to the ocean when they recover.

The aquarium said its Animal Rescue Program rarely sees more than one sea turtle in distress at a time, but this is the second winter in a row that it has had to care for a group of sick sea turtles.

It said cold-stunning, or hypothermia, occurs when the turtles, whose body temperature is controlled by the surrounding environment, are exposed to abrupt cold temperatures. They then lose their sense of direction while migrating and suffer from frostbite, malnutrition, dehydration, infection and can die. The aquarium said the turtles require gradual warming and veterinary care to recover.

Kemp's ridley sea turtles are the smallest sea turtles in the world and the aquarium said they are threatened by vessel strikes, entanglements, marine debris ingestion, habitat degradation and climate change.

The aquarium's Animal Rescue Program is the primary responder for marine mammals and sea turtles who need help along the coast of Connecticut, Rhode Island and Fishers Island. Anyone who spots marine mammals or sea turtles in these areas is encouraged to report them to the Animal Rescue Hotline, (860) 572-5955, ext. 10.

More information about the program can be found at mysticaquarium.org.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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