Beaching of warm-water turtles on Cape Cod is a normal phenomenon but the dramatic rise in their numbers this year is a matter of concern. Volunteers of one of the wildlife sanctuaries recovered hundreds of these animals and nearly half of them were dead, some frozen solid. The worst part is that the numbers are nearly twice of what turned up in 2016 and 10 times more than in 2008. The majority of those rescued suffered from some disease and needed treatment.

Daily Mail UK reports that Climate change could be one of the reasons for the spike in cold-stunned turtles beaching in New England. There have been instances in the past of occasional stranding of turtles in places like Florida, Texas and the Chesapeake Bay. Those are treated as isolated cases but the incidents in Cape Cod are considerably more, hence are worrisome. Continuous exposure to cold water makes them lethargic, affects their mobility and those that manage to pull through take months to recover.

Behavior of sea turtles says all is not well

A biologist attached to a sea turtle hospital in Quincy, Massachusetts, says when the animals are retrieved and brought in for treatment, they appear to be dead. This was especially true in December.

During the past decade, turtles have migrated into the warm waters of the Gulf of Maine to feed on crabs, mussels, and shrimp. There appears to be a difference in the opinion of scientists about linking climate change to the increase in the instances of turtles stranding in New England. They argue that the spike is an indication that the population of sea turtles has increased because of greater protections.

However, Daily Mail UK goes on to add that their population has in fact gone down because of man-made factors like development, destruction of habitats and getting entangled in commercial fishing nets. There has been a rise in the stranding of whale and dolphin as well, which could have links to climate change.

Sea turtles need protection

According to the New York Post, there has been an increase in strandings of endangered Kemp’s ridley turtles in years when the sea-surface temperatures were warmer. This is an unhealthy trend and the projection of researchers ring the alarm bell. However, other scientists do not agree. They argue that the situation is grim but there could be factors other than climate change responsible for such a state of affairs.

A climatic disorder like Hurricane Irma destroyed eggs of endangered sea turtles on Florida beaches.

Incidentally, there are special hospitals to take care of the cold-stunned turtles. Once brought in, they undergo an initial checkup to assess their requirements. Then they are transferred to rooms with warm surroundings to bring their body temperatures to a higher level. The next step is to shift them into saltwater tanks and feed them their favorite diet of herring and squid before releasing them into the waters.

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