Dozens of residents in Texas’ South Padre Island beach town have braved the deadly winter storm to rescue endangered sea turtles.
Volunteers working with the local rescue group Sea Turtle, Inc. have taken more than 4,000 frozen turtles for rehabilitation at the town’s convention center, the Washington Post reported.
Conservationists hope to raise their body heat gradually as they lie on tarps and kiddie pools indoors.
Wendy Knight, the executive director of the rescue group, told the outlet that the situation is ‘unprecedented’ and she fears hundreds of them may have already succumbed to ‘cold stun.’
‘A cold stun like this could have the potential to wipe out decades of hard work, and we’re going through it with no power and a unique, more catastrophic challenge to our efforts,’ she told the outlet.
Volunteers normally rescue from a few dozen to a few hundred cold-stunned turtles, warming them inside the group’s rescue center.
Cold stun is a condition experienced by sea turtles at extremely low temperatures which paralyzes them and prevents them from eating or keeping their heads above water, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
The dangerous arctic cold has left more than a dozen humans dead as millions of people across the south, particularly in Texas, face widespread power outages.
Knight told CBS News that Elon Musk’s SpaceX company, which has a facility on the Island, provided the organization with a large enough generator to restore power to its main facility allowing the group to heat water for the turtles.
‘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 told the outlet.
‘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 convention center location remained without heat and water on Wednesday, Knight said.
Conservationists told the Washington Post it may take days to determine how many turtles have been able to survive the shocking cold.
According to the group, the green sea turtles live year-round in the salty Laguna Madre and eat thick, underwater vegetation helping keep the ecosystem balanced.
Volunteers went out on boats to scoop up cold-stunned turtles from the water as others scanned the beach on foot and loaded them into their cars.
One woman on Twitter posted a picture showing dozens of turtles loaded into her mother’s Subaru.
‘They rescued one turtle yesterday who is over 100 years old and approximately 350 pounds!!!’ @lara_hand tweeted.
Gina McLellan, a 71-year-old retired professor and longtime volunteer, told the Washington Post that it is a ‘huge community effort.’
‘We very often don’t even think about the [cold’s] impact on animals, because we’re so worried about our own electricity and water. With this kind of event, it’s a classic display of humanity toward animals,’ she said.
Knight said the efforts of volunteers eventually will not matter unless they get more help from the power grid in order to help warm the turtles.
‘If we don’t get some relief from a power standpoint, we’re not going to be able to sustain this,’ she said.