By Julie Householder | firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s not every day a lethargic 400-pound turtle makes its way into the St. Augustine Municipal Marina. Named Edie, the loggerhead turtle was estimated to be 60 to 100 years old when she was found in the marina last month.
St. Augustine Eco Tours, a local business run by Flagler alumnus Captain Zach McKenna, was heavily involved in the rescue.
“In 25 years of wildlife response, I may have seen ten of these. Very rare to get a turtle this big,” said McKenna.
Mckenna said Edie was barely breathing when she was rescued. Her shell was covered in algae growth and barnacles indicating her illness could have been an internal issue. Edie was taken to SeaWorld Orlando for rehabilitation when she passed away. The cause of her death cannot be determined unless a necropsy, or animal autopsy, is done. McKenna stressed the importance of caring for wildlife in distress, especially during their last moments.
“Even if you offer that animal care for the last couple of hours of its life its important. For this animal to be set adrift unable to swim barely breathing and have boats coming within inches of it,” said McKenna. “I mean think about that as the last couple hours of your life you know it is much better off being handled well taken care of I mean bringing that peace to these animals is a big part of it. Many animals we know are going to make it. I mean I would like to be handled that way so we just kind of pass it on.”
As the number of recreational boaters has increased in the area, McKenna says the company has seen a higher number of what they call boat strikes, or when a boat’s propeller hits a marine animal.
During rescues, St. Augustine Eco Tours picks up the animal and keeps it comfortable before a state or federal agency transfers it to a rehab facility.
“We have great boats that are designed to pick up animals and to get into the shallows so that recovering injured or even dead or dying animals is good for the humans because you don’t want to hurt a human while helping an animal,” said McKenna. “We are really good at putting that whole system of response together.”