A cold stunned endangered green turtle is kept warm at SeaWorld Orlando. Photo by Jason Collier courtesy of PRNewsFoto/SeaWorld
The severe weather hitting the South has sent a cold snap to the Sunshine State, leaving iguanas paralyzed and falling out of trees. The prolonged freezing temps, down into the 20s, are causing these non-native reptiles to shut down, bringing their blood flow to a standstill which can kill them. Meanwhile farmers have scrambled to save strawberry fields and heat orange groves as icicles hang from the citrus orchards.Tourists bundle up, barely grateful it's not below zero, like back home. So who's wrapping Florida's endangered sea turtles in Snugglies?
None other than SeaWorld. One hundred "cold-stunned" sea turtles (and counting), from Florida to North Carolina have been rounded-up by SeaWorld Orlando's Rescue and Rehabilitation Center to provide shelter and warmth from the abnormally cold water temperatures. The cold-stun condition causes sea turtles to float to the surface as their metabolisms slow to a stop, making them susceptible to frostbite and infection.
Aquarists are warming up the reptiles and their babies gradually with heat lamps and blankets, and warm fluids to save them. Each animal also gets a health exam to determine their internal temperatures are stabilized. Florida has a rigorous sea turtle protection program to help out its population, including "lights out" projects that discourage turtles, drawn to the light, from lumbering into traffic and beach efforts to ensure eggs can hatch. Assisting the endangered sea turtles is a growing cause celeb and eco-tourism activity.
Cold-stunned baby turtle joins reptile refugees at SeaWorld SeaWorld's Rescue and Rehabilitation Center. Photo courtesy of SeaWorld.
A rare Hawksbill baby turtle and five Kemp Ridley turtles from North Carolina joined the record number of cold-stunned turtles. Due to their selective eating habits and inability to co-habitat with other species the journey to Orlando was necessary for this emergency.
Now I've got issues with marine parks and their dancing dolphins (see The Cove) but this is a worthwhile effort SeaWorld performs for these needy patients. Once temps rise, the park's marine animal rescue center will return the survivors to Florida waters. Lucky for them, they don't do tricks.
Now what about those iguanas?