Volunteers are racing to rescue thousands of cold-stunned sea turtles off the coast of Texas as a record-breakingdrops temperatures below zero.
Conservation group Sea Turtle Inc. told CBS News on Wednesday morning that it has already rescued over 4,000 turtles, reaching capacity at its facility in South Padre Island and sending overflow to the city’s convention center. Officials believe the total number is even higher.
Executive Director Wendy Knight told CBS News SpaceX provided the organization early Wednesday morning with a large enough generator to restore power to its main facility and heat water for the turtles, which can’t survive in cold water.
“We do not yet know if this was in time to save our patients in the hospital but this is a huge step forward,” Knight said. “This is what putting passion into action means and the service they provided us this morning will save countless turtles and will be something we are truly grateful for.”
The secondary location at the convention center remains without heat and water, Knight said.
“We have been working off of generators to charge our phones and spotlights at night,” a spokesperson said. “The convention center has been keeping the sea turtles from the cold elements and has been allowing them to come out of this cold-stunned shock.”
A team of volunteers has been working long hours during the storm — on foot and by boat — in an effort to locate and rehabilitate all stranded turtles in the region.
Turtles can experience “cold stun,” or hypothermia, in extremely low temperatures, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Their body temperatures can fall so low that they can no longer move, eat or keep their head above water.
Sea Turtle Inc.’s facility had been without power since Monday, and workers exhausted heating resources. The organization has requested generators, tarps, medical tape, snacks and water for volunteers, but they said it’s not enough.
“This is the biggest sea turtle cold-stunned event in south Texas and we are overly grateful for the support,” the organization wrote Tuesday night on Facebook.
Almost 3 million homes and businesses still had no power in Texas on Wednesday morning after this week’s major winter storm as a second one was threatening a wide swath of the U.S. The organization criticized the Electric Reliability Council of Texas for its lack of a “proactive response” during the storm.
“All of these efforts will be in vain if we do not soon get power restored to our facility,” Knight said in an Instagram video.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, five sea turtle species found in Texas are listed under the Endangered Species Act as “endangered” or “threatened.”
It’s not just turtles — countless animals have been affected by the storm. Texans are bringing their farm animals, including chickens, goats, ducks, pigs and even cows, into their homes to keep them from freezing to death.