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Marine Rescuers On Long Island Join National Effort To Save Endangered, Cold-Stunned Sea Turtles Washing Ashore In New England

WESTHAMPTON, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- A rescue mission is underway to save hundreds of endangered sea turtles.

Kemp's ridley sea turtles wash ashore up and down New England this time of year. Since there are so many in need, marine rescuers on Long Island are lending a hand.

It's a mission of mercy in Westhampton, CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff reported. Twenty nearly lifeless sea turtles arrived by air from Cape Cod's coast.

There are too many of them to be cared for in one place, so hundreds are being sent around the U.S. by the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration in an effort to save an endangered species.

"When they don't leave the water soon enough and they become, around 50 degrees Fahrenheit, these animals will become hypothermic and then they was up on the tide," said Robert DiGiovani, Jr. of the non-profit Atlantic Marine Conservation Society.

Volunteers and staff with the non-profit work to bring the cold-stunned sea turtles back to life.

"They looked terrible. They just were very still, they weren't reactive to us, and even seeing them today, coming in today and doing a treatment, they're different turtles, and that's the best part of what we do. You get to see an animal that is just, every day, every hour is making improving," said Kim Durham.


The turtles are given fluids, medicine and food as their body temperatures are slowly raised in tanks of water.

"We will assign, OK, how critical they are, we will try to get a heart rate," said DiGiovani, Jr.

"The heart rate can be as low as three, four beats per minute when they first come in, but at this point, they're nice, the body temperature is starting to increase," Durham said.

Kemp's ridley sea turtles' numbers are dwindling from vessel strikes, debris and climate change.

"There's a lot of threats facing these animals. So, when we have something that we can do something about, it helps us protect these species for future generations," DiGiovani, Jr. said.

Like any hospital setting, dedicated caregivers look forward to the day their patients are discharged.

The sea turtles will be sent to marine facilities down south and, eventually, released.

If you see a turtle that appears cold-stunned on shore, you should report it to the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society. This time of year, they should not be on our shores and can be saved.

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