A caravan of sea turtles has been making its way south this winter, after the animals were trapped in cold temperatures that would have otherwise killed them.
Over a thousand turtles have been stranded on North Carolina beaches after their annual return to shore, where, this year, they were greeted by intense cold. Typically, the turtles return to land earlier in the season, but an unusually warm December kept the waters inviting for the turtles, who stayed in the ocean for twice as long — about two months instead of one — according to an expert quoted in the Christian Science Monitor.
Now, to save their lives, professionals and volunteers are driving and flying the turtles south, in the cutest caravan in history.
According to the St. Augustine Record, every year, the beaches see "a couple hundred" turtles stranded on the shoreline, immobilized by the cold. However, this year, with over a thousand turtles beached and experiencing hypothermia symptoms, residents couldn't let them suffer in such great numbers, nor ignore the certain threat to the elegant animals' local population. Most of the washed-up turtles are Kemp-Ridley sea turtles, an endangered species.
As the climate continues to warm, the delicate balance of our ecosystem is interrupted, thwarting animals' usual migration patterns and reproductive cycles. These animals are one clear example.
"We drove the turtles to the border with South Carolina, and their team picked them up," North Carolina sea turtle biologist Matthew Godfrey told the St. Augustine Record. "They drove to the border with Georgia, and the Georgia team picked them up and drove them across the border into the northern part of Florida."
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is seeking additional transport for the turtles, trying to book them flights on small, privately-owned planes. The Coast Guard has, in the past, served as turtle chauffeurs as well.
Those who can help transport stranded turtles may contact Kate Sampson, Sea Turtle Stranding and Disentanglement Coordinator for the NOAA.
Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service | Flickr