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Endangered Sea Turtles Fly South

For pilots Philip Greenspun and Tom Cooper, today’s passengers were a bit unusual: 46 sea turtles packed in towel-covered banana boxes. Greenspun and Cooper volunteered their time and airplane to transport these endangered reptiles to Florida, a six-hour flight with headwinds.

“Tom and I are always happy to help anyone who needs help if we can. We’re delighted to be doing something to help them out,” says Greenspun, a helicopter instructor and former commercial airline pilot.

These sea turtles were all cold-stunned, and had washed up on Cape Cod beaches. Beach walkers organized by Mass Audubon’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary bring the turtles in from the cold. From there, these turtles went to to the New England Aquarium’s Animal Care Center in Quincy, Massachusetts for treatment and rehabilitation. To date, more than 300 cold-stunned sea turtles, at least 260 alive, have been reported in Massachusetts this season.

With so many patients, space at the Animal Care Center gets tight, and that’s where east coast partners within NOAA’s stranding network come into play. Kate Sampson, the Greater Atlantic Region’s Sea Turtle Stranding Coordinator, works with facilities along the East Coast to find other organizations able to rehabilitate these turtles. In this case, these turtles are going to four Florida facilities for further rehabilitation and eventual release back into the ocean: Clearwater Marine Aquarium, Florida Aquarium, Mote Marine Lab, and Sea World Orlando.

Find out more about cold-stunned sea turtles in our region and find out why we use banana boxes.