Many of you know that I’m a native New Englander, having lived in Rhode Island most of my life. We have no cranes this far east except for an occasional Sandhill that must have been blown off course by a storm. Wouldn’t you think that I’d get involved in a wildlife conservation project closer to home instead of one that takes place mostly in the mid-west?
Take sea turtles, for example. I live in a coastal state not all that far from Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Every fall, hundreds of “cold-stunned” Kemp’s-Ridley sea turtles wash up on the beaches there. Did you know that? Neither did I until two years ago when my friends, Michele Gomes and Jenny Ting of Interchange Media Art Productions, began making a documentary about this phenomenon that’s been happening year after year “forever.” How did I not know about this?!?!
Michele is also a native RI-er and, like me, admits she had never heard about sea turtles washing up on the beaches until she and Jenny visited the Mass Audubon Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. There, they stumbled onto a story that they felt had to be told. They spent the next two years making a full length documentary film titled “Saving Sea Turtles: Preventing Extinction.”
On January 14th their film premiered before a sell-out crowd at a beautiful old theater in Dennis, MA (or, as we would say, “down the Cape”). It tells the story of how Kemp’s-Ridley turtles are swept out of the Gulf of Mexico, follow the Gulf Stream northward, and end up in the Gulf of Maine. When the water starts to turn cold, they head south, but the arm of Cape Cod traps them. Colder and colder water finally cold-stuns them and will ultimately kill them if they are not rescued and rehabilitated.
Of course, that’s what the real story is about – the incredible dedication of the many people who, despite windy, freezing weather, walk the Cape Cod beaches every high tide, day and night, to find and rescue nearly lifeless turtles; the volunteers and staff at the Audubon receiving and checking the turtles; the volunteers who transport them to the New England Aquarium; the vets and rehabilitators at the Aquarium, NOAA, and other facilities; volunteers who transport rehabbed turtles ready for release, and on and on.
Just like Whooping Crane conservation, the story is not “just” about the animals – it’s about the people! I can certainly relate to the sea turtle rescuers’ passion and dedication to their conservation cause, and, but for Whooping Cranes, I’d be out there every year freezing my a** off with them!
Michele and Jenny’s film will be available online soon. In the meantime, check out the trailer: Saving Sea Turtles: Preventing Extinction.