In total, experts counted 16 animals, including 15 loggerhead turtles and one Atlantic ridley, which is on the verge of extinction. Of these, only four survived, stranded. “They are mostly teenagers or traumatized adults,” said Rod Penrose, head of marine monitoring.
Although the reasons for the observed phenomenon are not entirely clear, it is believed that stormy weather and strong currents force the animals into cold water. The most common species in British waters is the leatherback turtle, which is the largest living species and the only turtle with a boneless shell. Near Britain they are often seen in summer and autumn when they migrate to cold waters in search of jellyfish.
Leatherbacks tolerate cold water well because they are able to control heat loss. They swim faster in colder waters to keep warm and reduce blood flow to exposed areas to keep warm.
Other turtles cannot do this, which means they cannot visit the British Isles safely. Rarely seen species such as Atlantic ridleys are usually caught in cold currents after being lost during their first migration or being blown off course by currents and weather.
When these turtles enter water below 10 degrees, they are “stunned” by the cold, which causes them to become lethargic and move less and less. They eventually lose their ability to swim and drift until they are washed ashore.
Without outside help, stranded, these turtles begin to starve and freeze, which often leads to death.