Cold-stunned sea turtles flown from New England to South Carolina Aquarium in Charleston

Leroy Burnell/staff Whitney Daniel, a staff member at the S.C. Aquarium, holds a cold-stunned sea turtle that arrived in Charleston from New England on Wednesday. Buy this photo

It was the kidsí first flight. With any luck it will be their last.

By the numbers

99

Sea turtles treated and released since 2000





36

Turtles treated so far this year





26

Previous annual record





22

Highest number of turtles treated at one time







18

Turtles being treated





8

Kempís ridley turtles treated, released this year





6

Loggerhead turtles treated, released this year





1

Green turtle and hybrid turtle released this year



S.C. Aquarium

Ten juvenile sea turtles were flown to the South Carolina Aquarium from Boston on Wednesday to be treated for cold-stuns. They are among more than 140 turtles that have washed up on New England beaches over the past few weeks.

The eight Kempís ridley and two green turtles were caught by a sudden plunge in temperatures that left the reptiles with the equivalent of hypothermia, a condition that can kill them.

The numbers have overwhelmed the New England Aquarium, so the Charleston facility stepped in to help.

Gary Davis, of Davis Air Charter, donated the flight as a public gesture but had a kidís grin on his face as he helped unload the turtles.

The turtles are each a year or two old, so itís very likely this was their first trip north. Turtles hatched along Southeast and Gulf coast beaches swim to the Gulf Stream, which they ride to the north Atlantic, arriving at about this age.

Their inexperience and lack of body mass makes them particularly vulnerable to cold-stunning.

All seven species of sea turtles are considered threatened or endangered; Kempís ridleys are considered the rarest of them.

The flight Wednesday followed a flight in January that transported seven turtles from the New England facility. All those turtles have been returned to the ocean.

The New England facility is on pace for an unhappy record year treating cold-stunned turtles, said Christi Hughes, South Carolina Aquarium sea turtle biologist.

The aquarium here is already at a record pace for treating sick or injured turtles. The new arrivals bring the total so far this year to 36, said Kelly Thorvalson, sea turtle rescue program manager. They bring the active patient roll to 18.

Sea turtles, particularly the loggerhead, are the coddled creatures of the Lowcountry coast, where volunteer groups monitor their nests and onlookers crowd the releases of rehabbed turtles. Something about the reptiles enchants people. When Davis and co-pilot Neil McCann landed Thursday, their wives were there to greet the plane. Sure, Davis got a kiss. But Jackie Davis came to see the turtles.

ďIíve always loved them. Itís just a real thrill,Ē she said.

Reach Bo Petersen at 937-5744, @bopete on Twitter or Bo Petersen Reporting on Facebook.

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