When a damaged Kemp’s ridley sea turtle named Roxy was brought to Sea Life Aquarium Grapevine last summer, rescuers were hopeful she could rejoin other marine life in the wild.
But Roxy was too sick.
She was missing two limbs after probably getting into a crabs nest as she crawled to the ocean as a hatchling. Her right side also suffered a large bite.
Sea Life staff quickly bonded with the endangered turtle, whose destiny looked bleak.
They found a solution.
Sea Life built a Turtle Rescue Center and provided a permanent home for non-releasable Roxy — and for others like her.
Sadly, Roxy died recently after spending less than a year at Sea Life. Her life is eulogized on a wall at the attraction.
“Roxy was a special animal with a truly great story,” Sea Life spokeswoman Kelle Jackson said.
Roxy was found stranded off Mustang Island Gulf Beach. Due to her injuries, she had limited mobility on her left side.
The people who found her brought her to Animal Rehabilitation Keep (ARK) in Port Aransas.
Roxy weighed 14 grams when she was found as a small hatchling — no bigger than a silver dollar — and ARK raised her to 19 kilograms. She had learned to manage her impairments — showing the ability to dive in a shallow pool.
Unfortunately, she also had other physical problems that only became apparent as she grew older and larger. She suffered from a soft shell and, after death, was found to have tumors on her many internal organs throughout her body.
Pathologist and veterinarians feel that untreatable growths were predominantly responsible for her death.
“The staff both at ARK and SEA LIFE, along with veterinarians, worked hard to help her have as normal of a life as possible,” Jackson said.
IainScouller, Sea Life Aquarium Grapevine general manager, said they are proud to provide a home for sea creatures like Roxy that offer education about sea turtles and ocean conservation.
“Along with learning more about sea turtles, we want Sea Life visitors to know that whether it’s conservation or recycling, you don’t have to live by the beach to make a difference for the creatures living in our oceans.” he said.
The staff is taking Roxy’s loss hard.
“We loved the time we spent with Roxy,” he said. “She had a fantastic personality. We all loved her very dearly.”
Roxy enjoyed her time at Sea Life, too.
“She came up to the windows and would say hello to the guests,” Scouller said. “She was a diva.”
Scouller said Roxy was a treasure in another way.
“We learned a lot of lessons about Kemp’s ridley sea turtles and how they can adapt,” the general manager said.
Karen Rifenbury, displays curator for Sea Life Aquarium, who has been a fan of Roxy from the beginning, said, “We are all truly saddened by her passing. However, she played an important role in teaching our guests about the plight of these beautiful animals.”
Although Roxy could never be freed, Rifenbury said “any quality of life” they gave Roxy was “better than the alternative.”
By taking in sea turtles, Sea Life will allow ARK and other sanctuaries to free up space for animals that are releasable, Rifenbury said.
“We hope by telling these stories that people can make at least one change,” Rifenbury said, such as not putting trash in the ocean or driving boats too fast, especially in sanctuary sites.
“These animals are paying the ultimate price,” Rifenbury said. “We want to trigger some good actions by people to care.”