In this Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012 photo, a rescued loggerhead turtle swims under its reflection in a tank at the New England Aquarium's Animal Care Center in Quincy, Mass. (Photo: AP)
More than two dozen sea turtles described by the Associated Press as "stressed" by cold ocean waters have been airlifted from New England to balmy Florida.
The Coast Guard flew the turtles to Orlando on Friday, but the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (the federal agency that apparently oversees sea-turtle protection) reportedly arranged the flight. The Daytona Beach News Journal reports that 20 turtles were taken to SeaWorld Orlando, five loggerhead turtles were taken to the Volusia County Marine Science Center, and three other facilities in Florida also took in the displaced creatures.
A New England Aquarium spokesman says a record number of endangered and federally protected sea turtles have been treated this year for cold stress. Not willing to take any chances, The Daytona Beach News Journal adds that some are being treated at a separate $4.5 million "state of the art" facility.
“Taxpayers decided with the Endangered Species Act that they wanted the federal government to protect endangered species,” spokesman Tony LaCasse said.
He added: “A great majority of the resources and money used to take care of these turtles is raised privately.”
SeaWorld officials say an unseasonably warm November delayed the turtles' exit from Cape Cod Bay this year. When water temperatures suddenly dropped, the turtles developed hypothermia and washed ashore, prompting the crisis.
The turtles will be returned to their natural habitat when water temperatures are warmer.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.