Boston - Cloaked in a late summer fog, six of the world’s most endangered sea turtles were carried down a Cape Cod beach Tuesday morning by volunteers who had either rescued or cared for them. The 10 to 15 pound Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles with their black shells were placed on the sand of West Dennis Beach about 50 feet from the water. Five of the six quickly became aware of the smell and sound of the sea, which they had not swum in for eight months. They slowly pawed their way to the water’s edge and then disappeared into the surf with a dense fog laying over the water. The sixth turtle, “Fuzzy Wuzzy”, a 12 pounder which had stranded in Truro, MA near the tip of Cape Cod last December 8, was unsure of what to do. After a brief wait, a volunteer picked it up and gently placed it in the surf where instinctively its large front flippers engaged, and it swam off.
For these volunteers with the New England Aquarium and Mass Audubon’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, this was the completion of a positive circle of life. The two Mass Audubon volunteers are beach walkers who walked chilly Cape Cod Bay beaches last November and December searching for an inert, round mass hidden under seaweed or lying motionless in ankle deep water. The treasured objects of their painstaking effort were endangered sea turtles near death due to hypothermia. The turtles were then transported to the New England Aquarium’s sea turtle hospital in Quincy, MA. Veterinarians, biologists and dozens of volunteers there admitted and cared for nearly 300 sea turtles covered in algae and barnacles, most often looking dead with body temperatures in the 40’s or 50’s. After a few days of very slow re-warming, the turtles were then swimming in large tanks but most were still quite ill suffering from emaciation, pneumonia, severe dehydration, broken flipper bones, cracked shells and a host of organ problems.
Most of those sea turtles finished their recovery and rehab in 2-4 months and were flown or driven south for release. However, these six turtle were the most profoundly and chronically ill of the 2017 sea turtle stranding season. The turtles and their caregivers persisted. As you read this, Fuzzy Wuzzy, Peach, Artichoke, Midnight Blue, Copper and Antique Brass are all swimming in the waters just off of Cape Cod hunting for crabs and enjoying the freedom of the ocean.