(NEXSTAR) – Rescuers have saved thousands of “cold-stunned” sea turtles near South Padre Island in Texas after a record-breaking winter storm brought freezing air temperatures to the region, according to conservation group Sea Turtle, Inc.
As of Tuesday evening, the group says they were sheltering more than 2,500 turtles from hypothermia, but their wildlife sanctuary was still without power after losing it the day before.
“We’re undergoing one of the largest cold-stun events the island has seen in more than a decade,” Sea Turtle, Inc. Executive Director Wendy Knight said Monday. “Unfortunately, at 2 o’clock this morning we lost power, and as a result of that we have five 25-to-55,000 gallon tanks filled with these beautiful creatures that have lived here on South Padre Island for almost 40 years that are very close to perishing.”
The group is now using the South Padre Island Convention Center to shelter the turtles as they work to rescue as many of the animals as possible. A team of volunteers has been working to locate the stranded turtles and bring them to safety.
Sea turtles are cold-blooded animals and if the water temperature drops below 50 degrees Fahrenheit it can make it hard to swim, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Cold-stunning happens when an abrupt drop in temperature traps turtles in frigid water and makes it hard for them to swim to a warmer environment. They are vulnerable to shock, pneumonia, frostbite and potentially death, according to the Turtle Island Restoration Network.