SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, Texas (KVEO) — Thousands of cold-stunned sea turtles have washed up on the South Padre Island shoreline following a prolonged drop in temperatures.
The community has come together to support sea turtle conservation nonprofit, Sea Turtle, Inc., in their efforts to recover and care for the overflow.
Truckloads of green sea turtles have been arriving at the South Padre Island Convention Center for the past three days.
Sea Turtle, Inc., is spearheading the effort to save the sea turtles that have been stunned by the cold weather. While they are not dead, they appear lifeless.
The number of turtles that has been recovered so far is unheard of.
“To have 4,500 cold-stunned turtles in a location is unprecedented,” said Sea Turtle, Inc. Executive Director Wendy Knight. “The tragedy that would have would have come from this event, could have wiped out more than 30 years of Sea Turtle, Inc’s conservation efforts.”
To date, Sea Turtle, Inc., has released over 55,000 sea turtle hatchlings into the Gulf of Mexico.
The Solley family is just a few of the many around the community who have been donating their time to help get these sea turtles to safety. The Utah natives have singlehandedly recovered about 100 of them.
“I never thought I’d be saving sea turtles,” Quin Solley said.
But they are not the usual volunteers. Sea Turtle, Inc. hosts annual training for cold stunning events but volunteer coordinator, Mary Duncan, says a lot more help was needed this year.
“When they call our stranding hotline, we just ask would you be willing to help us and everyone says yes which is amazing,” Duncan said.
Sea Turtle, Inc., has been directing the public, from boat owners to single beachgoers, on how to recover and transport sea turtles to their temporary housing at the South Padre Island Convention Center.
This comes after their main facility reached capacity earlier this week.
“We do not plan for this, our average cold stun can range from 200 to 500 there has been a rare occasion where we’ll get close to 900,” Knight said.
Irving Hernandez has been donating 12 hours a day to help.
“We’ve seen everything from small turtles as small as a soccer ball to big turtles as big as a pallet that weighed over 400 pounds, it took three or four of us to lift off a truck,” he said.
The vast majority of the stranded sea turtles are green’s that like to live and feed in shallow coastal waters, and while most will soon be able to be released back into the Gulf, many will need further care.
“They have injuries and medical care that is going to be needed, they’ll be at the hospital with us,” said Knight.
For now, they are focus on the intake, and as more sea turtles keep arriving, other South Padre Island business owners have taken notice and offered to help.
Manager of Beach Resort at South Padre Island, Nathan Kasan found out about the sea turtle stranding through a Facebook post, and while dealing with the power outage themselves, they prepared their hotel convention room to take in more sea turtles if needed.
“We think it was the right thing to do,” he said. “This is the only way we could help them at this time so that’s why we did this gesture.”
For those hoping to contribute from afar, an Amazon wish list has been put up on their website, as well as a way to donate monetarily.
“This event has really shown me the passion that people in the Rio Grande Valley have to help things that cannot help themselves,” said Knight.
If you encounter a stranded sea turtle, call 956-243-4361. More information can be found on seaturtlinc.org.