Over 400 Sea Turtles have washed up on beaches around Cape Cod, Massachusetts this week. Volunteers from the Massachusetts Audubon Society patrol the area at this time of year looking for distressed Turtles, but have been surprised by the high numbers found this week, which compare to about 600 found between October and December in recent years. A total of 173 Turtles have died as a result of hypothermia, many of them Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle's, Lepidochelys kempii, a species considered to be Critically Endangered under the terms of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species.
Volunteers measuring rescued Turtles at the Massachusetts Audubon Society's Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. Massachusetts Audubon Society.
Ironically, though the Turtles are suffering as a result of the cold, the root cause of the problems is thought to be rising sea temperatures associated with global warming. Turtles breed in the warm waters of the Caribbean during the northern winter, and come northward during the summer to feed in the nutrient rich waters off the American east coast, however they have not, until fairly recently, come as far north Cape Cod, where they are apparently caught out by the sharp decline in water temperatures late in the year, resulting in the stranding of frozen animals seen this week.
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