GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Dozens of endangered turtles, which were cold stunned by the frigid weather in New England, are warming-up in Gulfport.
As WLOX News first reported Monday, 85 turtles were airlifted to the South from Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Thirty of the juvenile Kemp's Ridley turtles are being nursed back to health at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies.
"This is number 576," said Dr. Moby Solangi, as he lifted one of the turtles from its tank.
"So, they've had about a thousand of them. These are about one year old," he said.
The turtles not only survived the icy cold of New England, they also endured a chilly six hour transport aboard a Coast Guard plane. Each of the recovery tanks is equipped with a heater to help warm-up the cold-stunned animals.
"We're trying to get them warmed-up. Warm temperatures will help them eat and get well soon," said Dr. Solangi.
The intake procedure includes a thorough health assessment. X-rays are a part of that process.
"Primarily what we're looking for is pneumonia or any kind of changes in their lung field. These guys sometimes end up flacid inflaccidater and they wind up upside down on the beach, so they may take in some water," said veterinary tech, Wendy Hatchett.
Blood samples are also taken. It's a little more tricky than just "roll up your sleeve." But the blood work provides vital health information.
"It can tell you a lot about their kidney function and if they have an infection or not and if they're anemic. And it helps guide us with medication and that kind of thing and gives us an idea of their prognosis," said Dr. Kristin Crocker.
Not only are the turtles warming up with the 73 degree water temperature in their tank, but most of them also appear to have a pretty good appetite. They're dining on peeled shrimp and fillet of capelin; food kept soft to avoid upsetting their compromised digestive system.
"They're all very actively eating. We're able to drop food into their tub and they foraged for it on their own. So, that's a really, really good sign," said Hatchett.
It's a positive start to what will likely be several months of rehab for the turtles. Normally this time of year, volunteers in the Cape Cod area rescue about 100 stranded turtles. This year, those turtle patrols have found nearly 1,200.