SAN FRANCISCO—The San Francisco Zoo, as part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), has joined nationwide fundraising efforts to support a major sea turtle rescue operation currently underway in Texas. Unusually low temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico have left already endangered species of turtles “cold-stunned” and unable to swim.
“Sea turtles are cold-blooded and rely on heat from their environment to maintain body temperature,” reports the Texas State Aquarium. “When water and air temperatures drop rapidly, they become lethargic and unable to swim due to the cold. Many of the sea turtles may have pneumonia, and some could have other medical conditions or injuries from being washed against rocks. Cold stunned turtles require expert medical care.”
Local conservation centers received thousands of rescued turtles within the first few days of the winter storm.
“Our colleagues in Texas needed help,” Tanya Peterson, President of the San Francisco Zoo, told KCBS Radio. “Their employees were driving down to the coast. These are employees who don’t have heat at home. They’ve been there since Sunday trying to rescue sea turtles. They need generators, they need fuel, they need support for their families at home.”
The San Francisco Zoo and other AZA members raised $150,000 in just three hours, according to KCBS. Temperatures are beginning to return to normal, and some of the turtles are expected to be released on Monday, February 23 if the water is warm enough.
The AZA is still accepting donations to its Saving Animals From Extinction (SAFE) fund, which launched an American Turtles program last year, and its employee assistance fund, which supports animal caretakers working in natural disasters.