Saving the World’s Most Endangered Sea Turtle

Stranded on Cape Cod beaches, these Kemp’s ridley turtles are getting a helping hand from volunteers and researchers

When some turtles swim south in the fall, scores of them get trapped by Cape Cod, where many die of hypothermia. (Herb Swanson)
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Connie Merigo, a biologist who manages the rescue effort, chooses when to release the sea turtles, usually in late summer. She monitors local sea temperatures, waiting for the water to reach about 70 degrees, and keeps track of turtle sightings offshore, a sign that conditions in the water are good. The turtles are released in Nantucket Sound, where they will have fewer obstacles on their route south. Identification tags will be placed on all animals and several will also receive satellite tags that record where they go.

Last summer, for the first time, a turtle rescued from Cape Cod Bay and tagged at the New England Aquarium was spotted nesting on a beach on Padre Island in Texas. Adam Kennedy, an aquarium biologist, says the rescue team got word of the nest at the beginning of this year’s stranding season. The news made it easier to gear up for the coming days of pressure-filled work. “It’s just really exciting,” he said. “That’s what we are here for.”

Amy Sutherland’s most recent book is What Shamu Taught Me About Life, Love and Marriage.


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