Biscayne Bay has a new resident. Her first day in the water was June 16 - appropriately, World Sea Turtle Day.
Meet Optimus, the loggerhead sea turtle. She is three feet long, weighs 65 pounds and is a survivor.
Optimus was ready to be released back into her native habitat after more than a year of recovery at the Miami Seaquarium. She was hit by a boat propeller and seriously injured in April 2015.
From the edge of shore at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, beach-goers gathered around to watch Optimus crawl into the water. You could hear one little boy in the crowd yell, "Be free, turtle, be free!" while other members of the crowd cheered, "C'mon, you got this!"
Jessica Schiffhaeuer is the animal care supervisor at the Miami Seaquarium. She said Optimus needed eye surgeries after she was found near Coconut Grove in Biscayne Bay. Her face was directly hit by the same propeller's blades that cut her shell.
Yet what ultimately healed her was time.
“She just had to heal herself, so the best we could do was feed her,” Sciffhaeuer said.
Another Seaquarium caregiver, Natalie Hildebrand, said the turtle now has a full life to look forward to, although she doesn’t think Optimus will travel far.
“I’m thinking she’ll probably be one of those turtles that’ll probably be somewhat local,” Hildebrand said.
Boat propeller injuries are common among sea turtles and manatees. Optimus was released on World Sea Turtle Day to help bring awareness to the species, their vulnerabilities and strengths.