Exhausted and emaciated, Winnie the sea turtle weighed only 66 pounds when Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission workers found her April 29 near a St. Lucie power plant.
Now recovered after a two-month stay at Miami Seaquarium, the loggerhead was returned to the wild Tuesday at nearby Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park in Key Biscayne.
“When we first found Winnie it was kind of sad, because she seemed so, so sick,” said Jessica Schiffhauer, the Seaquarium’s animal care manager. “But the fact that we were able to get her to the Miami Seaquarium was a very good feeling because we know that we can help save her and care for her.”
Healthy loggerheads weigh 155 to 375 pounds. But after eating plenty of food (no squid, please) and being treated with antibiotics at the Seaquarium, Winnie managed to put back 11 pounds.
During Winnie’s stay, Seaquarium workers discovered she had a small, non-life-threatening boat strike injury. Her treatment, however, primarily focused on Winnie’s lethargy and shrunken size, the reasons for which still remain unknown.
As animal trainers prepped Winnie for being released back to nature, her flippers waved constantly. She seemed as eager to leave as everyone was to see her go.
“I’ve seen her come in all lethargic and thin. Seeing how she’s progressed has been really amazing,” Seaquarium publicist Bella Collado said. “She’s really sassy — my favorite part of that turtle. She is a sassy, hyper-turtle, which is basically my alter ego.”
Roughly 20 Seaquarium summer campers were brought in to say goodbye to Winnie. Before petting her, the kids were given an environmental presentation regarding marine animals and how one should behave around them.
Shortly after, the loggerhead was returned to nearby Bill Baggs Park.
Slow to crawl on the sand, Winnie’s descent into the water was reluctant. But once submerged, she quickly sped off to the amazement of beachgoers who gathered around.