NC Aquarium cares for cold-stunned sea turtles

STAR Center manager Amber Hitt observes a green sea turtle during its swim test.

MANTEO, N.C. – The Sea Turtle Assistance and Rehabilitation Center at the NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island has admitted 12 new sea turtles within the past week because of cold-stunning, a condition which is similar to hypothermia.

Cold-stunning is caused by dropping water temperatures and renders these aquatic reptiles unable to properly swim.

When temperatures fall, volunteers with the Network for Endangered Sea Turtles and National Park Service biologists comb ocean and soundside shorelines for cold-stuns and transport them to the Center for care.

The recovery process begins by gradually warming the turtles back up over the course of a few days. Once at a healthy internal body temperature, each turtle is observed during a swim test. A turtle passes this test by exhibiting normal swimming and diving behaviors. Failing the test can be a sign that the turtle has additional complications other than cold-stunning and could require a longer rehabilitation period.

Additional supplies are needed in anticipation of more turtles arriving for treatment. Items can be purchased from the STAR Center’s wish list to help staff care for current and incoming patients.

The NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and is dedicated to the mission of “Inspiring appreciation and conservation of our aquatic environments.”

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