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Sea turtle rescue center in Texas takes in over 2,500 turtles cold-stunned by winter storm

Sea Turtle, Inc., in South Padre Island reached out for help with keeping the thousands of turtles warm, prompting SpaceX to donate a generator.

Sea Turtle, Inc., a rehab center in South Padre Island, Texas, reached out to the online community this week to ask for help with keeping turtles warm amid the historic winter storm in the region.

The center initially began taking in cold-stunned turtles on Sunday, but soon reached 500 on Monday.

A 400 lb, 200 year old sea turtle rescued in South Padre Island, Texas.
A 400lb, 200 year old sea turtle rescued in South Padre Island, Texas.Sea Turtle Inc.

When sea turtles become cold-stunned after being exposed to cold water for long periods, it can result in hypothermic reactions which can lead to death. South Padre Island has been in the 40s this week, making it too cold for the turtles.

The nonprofit organization took to Facebook to ask the South Padre/Port Isabel community along the Gulf Coast for help with supplies after posting they had been without power since 2 a.m. on Sunday.

The plea asked for generators, tarps, medical tape and snacks for the volunteers who had been helping since 6 a.m. The generators were needed to keep the water in the tanks warm enough for the turtles to survive.

By Monday evening Sea Turtle, Inc., had over 1,700 turtles under their care.

Sea Turtle Inc. have saved over 500 cold-stunned sea turtles in South Padre Island, Texas.
Sea Turtle Inc. have saved over 500 cold-stunned sea turtles in South Padre Island, Texas.Sea Turtle Inc.

Among the reptiles rescued from the cold was a 400 pound turtle estimated to be over 200-years-old who needed a whole pool to themselves.

In a video posted by the center, executive director Wendy Knight described the harsh conditions they were facing due to the dropping temperature.

"We have five 25,000 to 55,000 gallon tanks with these beautiful creatures that have lived here on South Padre Island for almost 40 years that are very close to perishing," Knight said.

Turtles from the South Padre and Port Isabel area continued to arrive at the center amid the dropping temperatures and reached 2,500 turtles on Tuesday.

With no heat and a growing number of turtles, Sea Turtle Inc. was forced to move the overflow patients to the South Padre Island Convention Center and Visitors Bureau.

Yet things looked up when SpaceX, Elon Musk's aerospace company that operates a facility in nearby Brownsville, reached out and had a large commercial generator sent to them.

"There are no words to explain the gratitude we have, they came to us in our darkest hour of need," Knight said in a video on Tuesday.

While the generator restored much needed power to the center, Knight said the prolonged blackout has broken the heaters and filters on their rehab tanks. Sea Turtle, Inc., is now focused on raising money to repair the tanks.

On Thursday, the organization said on Facebook they are at capacity for volunteers and asked people to stay away so staff can focus on treating the thousands of turtles. "The best we can do for these creatures is give them time to recover," the post said.