WEST ORANGE, NJ — Located inside Turtle Back Zoo, there is a nonprofit rehabilitation hospital that handles all critically injured and ill sea turtles that wash ashore in New Jersey. The group just celebrated releasing its 50th sea turtle back into the ocean after rehabilitating her for 16 months — but the organization does not have long to celebrate.
“This November we are preparing to have over 20 threatened and endangered sea turtles arrive at our hospital cold-stunned and barely clinging to life. It is our busy season, and we need everyone to help,” said Bill Deerr, STR co-executive officer.
Cold stunning occurs when sea turtles fail to migrate before water and air temperatures drop dangerously low. Last year, from Nov. 13 to 21, STR saved 13 turtles that were found floating, on beaches or stranded in the state’s back bays. The Marine Mammal Stranding Center worked with STR to retrieve the sea turtles and bring them to STR’s hospital. It was a group effort that continued night and day, but the fear is that this year is going to be the worst yet.
“Last year we had record-setting numbers of live green sea turtles. Based on nesting cycles, it’s predicted that there are more juvenile Kemp’s ridley sea turtles also foraging along our coast this year. If cold ocean currents move south before these sea turtles migrate, it will be devastating,” Deerr said.
Sea Turtle Recovery is asking anyone living along or utilizing New Jersey’s ocean front and bays this fall to report any sea turtle — dead or live — to the NOAA hotline at 866-755-6622, or they can call MMSC at 609-266-0538. They ask that the turtles not be warmed, as it can lead to shock. Report the turtle first to receive proper instructions on how to prevent further injury. Upon receiving the sea turtles, STR will begin life-saving measures and treatments.
Turtle Back Zoo will be offering an afterhours charity event on Saturday, Oct. 17. Tickets for the evening at the zoo will go to help Sea Turtle Recovery’s efforts. To donate or find out more information about the event, go to www.SeaTurtleRecovery.org.
“The Essex County Turtle Back Zoo is hopeful the event will be a big boost to Sea Turtle Recovery prior to their busy season. Endangered sea turtles need our protection,” Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr. said.
Photos Courtesy of Sea Turtle Recovery