Residents and visitors alike of Navarre Beach are in mourning. Last week we said goodbye to a dear friend, Gigi the loggerhead sea turtle.
Gigi called the Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center (NBSTCC) home, and during her time there greeted more than 15,000 guests from across the U.S. and around the world.. From school groups to retirees, Gigi delighted and engaged many as an ambassador for her species.
Her loss is deeply regretted by those that loved her. Including me.
Gigi was initially rescued after stranding as an adult turtle on St. Augustine Beach in 1998. It was discovered that a neurological condition had caused her to go blind. Though it was determined she would not be able to survive in the wild, Gigi still found purpose as an ambassador for her species.
Despite her lack of sight, Gigi found creative ways to settle into her new home. She used the tips of her flippers to feel the location of the walls of her tank. She used sounds to find her way during feeding times with her animal care team, and she could feel the vibrations from visitors to poke up her head to say hello.
On my visits Gigi would frequently swim up to where I was watching her. She was always my favorite subject to write about and photograph.
But she got sick, and despite the best care, she did not get better. Further medical study found that Gigi had developed heart failure from a mass in her chest that was untreatable. In a final act of love, the NBSTCC took away Gigi’s pain.
She is truly missed, but as staff from NBSTCC said, her mission to “give sea turtles more tomorrows” will live on.
The turtle center remains open, offering education and inspiration to those that visit, and in the future the center hopes to have another sea turtle swimming in their pool once more to inspire future generations of sea turtle conservationist.
Goodbye Gigi, and thank you.