Saving sea turtles

Since the age of the dinosaurs, sea turtles have roamed earth’s waterways. But now 6 out of 7 sea turtle species are endangered. In an effort to prevent these sea creatures from becoming extinct the Essex County Turtleback Zoo in New Jersey opened the state’s first long-term rehabilitation center.

TRANSCRIPT

Since the age of the dinosaurs, sea turtles have roamed earth's waterways.

But now six out of seven sea turtle species are endangered.

In an effort to prevent these sea creatures from becoming extinct, the Essex County Turtle Back Zoo in New Jersey opened the state's first long-term rehabilitation center.

Take a look.

Think of them as the snowbirds of the sea.

When temperatures drop, sea turtles head toward warmer weather.

But the ones left behind are vulnerable.

That's where the Turtle Back Zoo is lending a hand.

In the north a little bit near New England, these animals are stranded due to cold water temperatures.

They just didn't get the cues to leave in time, and they got stranded in the cold.

And being a reptile, their body temperature decreases with the water, and then all their systems start to shut down.

So, each year, there's between 400 and 600 turtles that cold stun on the east coast, and there's not a lot of facilities like this out there.

The Turtle Back Zoo is now home to the only long-term sea turtle hospital in New Jersey, 1 of fewer than 10 in the Northeast.

The new Prudential Sea Turtle Recovery Center has five recovery tanks, including an intensive-care unit.

It's absolutely separate from the other turtles.

So if we ever had a turtle that may have an infectious disease or something that we didn't want shared water with the other turtles, we would put them in the ICU.

This also is a room that doesn't get any type of public viewing stuff, and so it's very calming and relaxing.

And we're able to really monitor the turtle in this room.

Our goal is to release as many turtles as we can, so we can help out with the overflow of other facilities that are helping.

If they have 100, we can take 20 or 30 off their hands now.

So we're providing a really big service to the stranding community.

The Turtle Back Zoo has been expanding under the stewardship of Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo.

This zoo is growing by leaps and bounds.

You know, we have over 800,000 people.

And we want to make sure that the people know, you know, these endangered animals, these turtles here need to be taken care of.

Most need a few months to recover.

For some, it takes a year.

The center is treating 11 turtles now but has room for 3 or 4 times as many.

Sea turtles, for most people, are a happy reptile.

There's a lot of people that don't like reptiles, don't like snakes.

But sea turtles are the type of things that are cute, and people really like them, so I think there's gonna be a huge draw just because of what the animals are.

But then it allows us to do the education and to put our education message forward.

There are four sea turtles that arrived here back in December.

They were cold stunned, but the staff here were able to nurse them back to health.

They're due to be released, but since water temperatures in New Jersey are too cold, they're heading to sunny Florida.