SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — For decades, Fred the loggerhead sea turtle touched the hearts of many from around the world through in-person visits and virtual education presentations at Sea Turtle, Inc.
The three-legged, 220-pound sea turtle was known by many as being a fan of eating squid and a gentle giant who enjoyed swimming in the currents of his tank with a small blue crab riding on his back.
On Thursday, Sea Turtle, Inc. personnel announced with heavy hearts that Fred, their adored long-stay resident, passed away.
“We are deeply saddened by Fred’s loss but hold on to his legacy of being able to reach well over a million visitors at Sea Turtle Inc.,” Chief Executive Officer Wendy Knight stated.
According to personnel, Fred was found unresponsive in his tank Wednesday evening and was pronounced dead after multiple attempts of resuscitation.
“When we found out, it was a back-to-back effect. They found him unresponsive and they immediately took action and did all they could and more to bring him back,” Director of Marketing and Development Sanjuana C. Zavala said. “We have an incredible animal care team here at Sea Turtle, Inc.”
The cause of death remains unknown, however, personnel said a necropsy will be performed on Fred within the next week.
Within hours of announcing Fred’s death on Facebook, the announcement received nearly 400 comments and more than 3,000 reactions from the public.
“The turtles are a part of our family so for us to see the support outside of Sea Turtle Inc. and people feeling so enamored and touched by Fred just by meeting him in an hour, five minutes or 10 minutes, and getting that connection makes us feel so good about what we do here every single day,” Zavala said.
His journey to Sea Turtle Inc.
Fred was initially stranded in Port Aransas on Nov. 17, 1996.
He was found entangled in a gill net, which resulted in the loss of his front flipper.
The following year, Fred was released back into the ocean.
According to Sea Turtle Inc. personnel, sea turtles with three flippers typically can still survive successfully in the wild.
Fred’s time back in the ocean didn’t last very long.
He became stranded again two more times in Port Aransas in 1998 and 1999.
According to Sea Turtle Inc. personnel, Fred was ultimately deemed non-releasable for unknown reasons and was adopted by Sea Turtle Inc. as a permanent resident in December of 1999.
After hearing of Fred’s passing, retired Sea Turtle Inc. Executive Director Jeff George shared a fond memory he has of the loggerhead with Sea Turtle Inc. personnel.
George recalled that in the early 2000s, a study was conducted by Texas A&M students studying the bite force of loggerhead sea turtles in captivity.
“Fred was the lowest of them all when they told him to bite on the block to measure his bite force. He bit it softly,” Zavala said. “His habits and his actions were true to his description of being a gentle giant so even when they were studying his species and his bite force, he didn’t want to do anything that caused harm. I love that story.”
Leaving a legacy
Sea Turtle Inc. personnel are in the process of creating a memorial in honor of Fred.
“We do have a direct link to our PayPal that if anyone wishes to donate in honor of Fred, they’re more than welcome to,” Zavala said.
“We also have our adoptions still going online and at the kiosk here at Sea Turtle Inc. so any donation wanting to adopt Fred, they’re more than welcome to. Of course, that would just be an angelic adoption, but that money will also go toward his permanent memorialization.”
Zavala said Sea Turtle Inc. is very grateful for the support system they’ve received worldwide.
“We are still a little bit shocked and we’re sad, but we love the comfort that the public is giving us in person, on social media, through the phone or coming in just to check in on us to make sure we’re OK and to give their respects,” she said.
“It makes our work much more worth it because it’s not just us feeling that connection and that love for these sea turtles, but it’s also the public.”
To make a donation to Sea Turtle Inc. in honor of Fred, visit the facility’s PayPal at https://tinyurl.com/zkh77a5p.
“We all fell in love with Fred. Every day we worked with him,” Zavala said. “He was a great family member here at Sea Turtle Inc.”