Nonprofit conservation organization Sea Turtle, Inc. has taken in almost 4,500 sea turtles since Sunday on South Padre Island, Texas, due to the blisteringly cold conditions in the region, a report by NPR confirms.
As Sea Turtle, Inc. Executive Director Wendy Knight told NPR, the organization has been able to shelter the turtles with the aid of community volunteers, local government, and even SpaceX employees, whose Boca Chica launch facility is near Sea Turtle, Inc.'s conservation center.
"The love and support of people who just want to help things that can't help themselves is overwhelming," Knight said.
The volunteer work has been carried out in the face of freezing temperatures in Texas, as the state deals with power shortages caused by the cold. A historic winter storm has caused outages as well as frigid water conditions that could be lethal to the turtles.
As of the morning of Wednesday, Feb.17, the floor of Sea Turtle, Inc's facility is said to be covered in bins containing approximately 500 rescued sea turtles.
As that facility quickly ran out of space, the city's Convention and Visitors Bureau donated the use of the South Padre Island Convention Center. Approximately 4,000 turtles are being housed at the center in a combination of kiddie pools, tarps, and boxes.
Knight told NPR that it is likely turtles won't be released from the facilities until Saturday at the earliest. What's more, with more trucks of rescued turtles coming in by the hour, it is likely that a third facility will be needed to house the rescued sea creatures.
The 'Armageddon of all cold stuns'
As turtles are coldblooded, they cannot regulate their own body temperature, meaning they are particularly vulnerable to the extreme weather conditions that are currently affecting the state of Texas.
In fact, when water temperatures drop below a certain threshold, sea turtles can suffer from a condition known as "cold stun" where they remain awake but lose the ability to move. This condition often leads to death by drowning or injury.
Sea Turtle, Inc. approximately 30 employees, and 500 registered volunteers, prepare for the "cold stun" season annually by carrying out sea turtle interaction training. This year's conditions have been particularly challenging due to electricity outages — it "has been the Armageddon of all cold stuns," Knight explained.
To help out, employees from the nearby SpaceX Boca Chica launch site — home to the company's recent Starship prototype test flights — also joined in on the turtle rescue and have rescued some 850 turtles. The space company has collaborated with the nonprofit on previous occasions.
On Tuesday night, Feb 16., officials from SpaceX also showed up at Sea Turtle, Inc.'s facility with a massive commercial generator, giving the nonprofit power to help them shelter the rescued sea turtles.
Though some of the endangered turtles, unfortunately, might not make it through the next few days of extreme conditions, Knight says she looks forward to the "unprecedented" mass release of these rescued sea turtles, once the conditions are right.