For "Travel Tuesday", let's discover the sea turtles of Padre Island, TX in the Texas Gulf Coast region.
"Home to some of the best beaches in America, the Texas Gulf Coast region draws millions of visitors to this Texas playground. Stretching some 350 miles from South Padre Island & the Rio Grande Valley, all the way to Beaumont & the Louisiana border, this region is renowned for its wildlife & natural beauty, as well as the home of America's space program. Discover the Beaches of the Texas Gulf Coast Region."
The Longest Stretch of Undeveloped Barrier Island in The World
"Padre Island National Seashore separates the Gulf of Mexico from the Laguna Madre, one of a few hypersaline lagoons in the world. The park protects 70 miles of coastline, dunes, prairies, and wind tidal flats teeming with life. It is a safe nesting ground for the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle and a haven for 380 bird species. It also has a rich history, including the Spanish shipwrecks of 1554."
The dunes shown is how Padre Island probably appeared to Native Americans and early European settlers hundreds of years ago. NPS Photo
For almost its entire existence, Padre Island has remained undeveloped wilderness. Because the National Seashore endeavors to preserve Padre Island in its natural state, visiting the island is very much like stepping back into the past. With few exceptions, visitors can now see Padre Island as it has existed throughout most of its history and how it is described in the few extant descriptions by the early explorers.
Four nations have owned Padre Island at different times. The first was Spain, which owned Padre Island from its entry into the New World until the Mexican Revolution of 1820. Following the revolution, Mexico owned Padre Island from 1821 until 1836, when the newly formed Republic of Texas claimed the area between the Nueces river and the Rio Grande. Padre Island was under ownership by the Republic of Texas until its territory was acquired by the United States, following the War with Mexico of 1845-1848. Throughout these times, the island has been known by several names, with Padre Island being only the most recent. It has also been known as "la Isla Blanca" (White Island) and "Isla de los Malaguitas" (Island of the Malaquites, a band of the Karankawa people).
The Novillo Line Camp and bunkhouse can still be seen on the eastern side of the park, across from Bird Island Basin Road. NPS Photo
The first permanent settlement on the island was located on the island's southern tip. This area was established around 1804 by a Spanish priest, Padre Nicolas Balli, after whom the island is named. Prior to then, the only people known to have inhabited or visited the island were nomadic hunter-gatherers Native Americans, Spanish troops or ships, and the survivors of three shipwrecks on the island's shore in 1554.
From 1804 to 1970, after the National Seashore opened in 1962, the island was used almost solely for ranching. The most prominent and lasting exceptions to this have been the development of the tourism industry (including the development of the town of South Padre Island and the National Seashore) beginning in the early 1920's, and the exploitation of the island's oil and natural gas reserves, which began in the 1950's.
One of the most interesting periods of the island's history was from World War II to 1960, when a Navy bombing range existed on the northern section of the island."
Kemp's ridley sea turtles are both the smallest and the most endangered sea turtles in the world. Padre Island National Seashore is one of only a few places in the world where Kemp's ridley sea turtles come to nest. More...
Speaking of Texas: Tribute to the Turtle Lady
Ila Loetscher changed the face of coastal conservation
Ila Loetscher dedicated the last 35 years of her life to the conservation of sea turtles. Her foundation at South Padre Island continues the mission. (Photo by Jack Lewis)
"It often takes something spectacular to spark a worldwide interest in change, and for the conservation of the endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, that spectacular something — or someone — was Ila Loetscher (1904-2000), who founded South Padre Island’s Sea Turtle Incorporated in the 1970s. Many people first learned of the turtles’ plight during Loetscher’s daily sea turtle shows, where she both amazed and educated her audiences.
Barely standing five feet tall, Loetscher would scoop a 90-pound sea turtle into her arms and coo into its bonnet-covered ear before leading it across a stage with a few of its similarly clothed companions. Though her methods seem antiquated by today’s standards, Loetscher dedicated her life to the turtles’ appreciation and preservation, and with her turtle “fashion shows,” she aimed to instill public awareness of their precarious position.
Ila Loetscher, born Ila Fox, grew up in Iowa. Her family spent frequent winters in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, and they took occasional trips to the South Texas seashore. But at the time, Ila Fox’s head was in the clouds, literally. Flying fascinated her, and as a young woman, she spent time interacting with the pilots at the airport in Davenport, where she eventually took flying lessons. In 1929, Fox became the state’s first licensed female pilot and soon joined an elite group of female pilots called The Ninety-Nines, whose first president was Amelia Earhart.
In the early 1930s, Ila gave up flying to move to the east coast with her new husband, David Loetscher. According to biographer Evelyn Sizemore, when David died of cancer in 1955, Loetscher decided to return to her childhood vacation spot in the Rio Grande Valley.
Kemp Riley Sea Turtle Baby
She soon moved to South Padre, where she learned of the sea turtle poaching occurring on the beaches of Rancho Nuevo, Mexico, some 225 miles south of the United States-Mexico border. At the time, this was the only major nesting spot of the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, and poachers were harvesting nearly 100 percent of the population for their skin, shells, and eggs. In 1966, Loetscher joined forces with Dearyl Adams, a Brownsville contractor heading up Project Ridley, an experiment to increase turtle nesting in Texas.
Together with other scientists working on the project, they transported the eggs from Rancho Nuevo to South Padre Island, where they could be monitored and protected until they hatched, imprinted on their new home base in Texas, and swam out to sea. Then, the scientists waited. If the plan worked, the female turtles would return as adults to nest at South Padre Island. Because sea turtles can take up to 10 to 15 years to mature and return to nest, they knew the wait would be a long one. But in 1974, a lone turtle returned to the beach of South Padre Island to lay her eggs. Loetscher and others were hopeful that this adult turtle was one of the original South Padre Island hatchlings, though there was no way to be sure. After 52 days of protected incubation, a member of the next generation emerged from the nest in the sand and headed out to sea. The cycle continued.
As the scientists continued to monitor the turtles’ activity, they would sometimes discover injured turtles, and they would send them to Loetscher, who nursed them back to health in her backyard. Soon, she became known as “The Turtle Lady.”
Loetscher’s influence made an international impact. She campaigned tirelessly for recognition of the plight of the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, making television appearances on Late Night with David Letterman, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, and Ripley’s Believe it or Not!. Despite her lack of scientific background, she gave sea turtles a voice during a time when conservation was not a household word.
“Ila was a champion at creating public endorsement,” said Jeff George, Curator of Sea Turtle Incorporated. “She did it in unorthodox ways at times, but she made a splash.”
In 1978, the United States and Mexican governments joined forces to further Adams’ and Loetscher’s efforts, transporting eggs from Mexico to Padre Island National Seashore, some 70 miles north of South Padre Island. In 1979, the program’s first turtles were released into the Gulf of Mexico. Donna Shaver, Chief of the Division of Sea Turtle Science and Recovery at Padre Island National Seashore, who has led efforts since 1986 to detect, investigate, and protect turtles that return here to nest, explains how Loetscher contributed to sea turtle recovery efforts.
“She educated a lot of people and inspired a lot of people to care about sea turtles,” Shaver says. “It was very important at a time when awareness of sea turtles was much less than it is today.”
Thanks to conservation efforts, the sea turtle population—the Kemp’s ridley in particular—has made a significant comeback since it dropped to near extinction in the mid- 1960s, but the work is far from done.
“Thanks to efforts of many, many people working very hard, the numbers are increasing,” Shaver says. “It looks promising for the eventual recovery of the species, but we need to continue our conservation measures to try to help continue that increase.”
Ila Loetscher died in 2000 at age 95, but the staff and volunteers at Sea Turtle Incorporated have made it their mission to carry on her legacy. Visitors can tour the facility Tuesday through Sunday to see rehabilitating turtles of several species and to learn more about ocean habitat.
“Every penny we generate goes toward sea turtle conservation,” says Patrick Burchfield, Chairman of Sea Turtle Incorporated’s advisory board. “Sea Turtle Incorporated was built and dedicated for one purpose and one purpose only, and that was to conserve the Kemp’s ridley and other sea turtle species.”
Ecologist and sea explorer Jacques Cousteau once called Ila a “wave maker.” And just as a wave’s ripples grow as they continue from their origin, so does Loetscher’s influence on marine conservation." From: http://www.texashighways.com/index.php/component/content/article/37-departments/6268-speaking-of-texas-tribute-to-the-turtle-lady By Haley Dawson
Beloved Turtle Hugger of Texas
Photo Sea Turtle Inc.
Ila Loetscher, 1905-2000
Ila Fox Loetcher, famed "Turtle Lady" of Texas, passed away on January 4, 2000. She was 95. Dr. Pamela Plotkin, of the Center for Marine Conservation, announced her passing on the CTURTLE mailing list with this tribute:
"Ila was the founder of Sea Turtles, Inc. and perhaps was most widely recognized for dressing sea turtles in clothes. She appeared in magazines, newspapers and on television with her turtles. I first learned of Ila back in the early 1980s when she appeared on the "Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson and brought with her a turtle wearing a dress and panties. Naturally you might think this to be a bit odd...but Ila dressed turtles primarily to catch the attention and interest of those she wanted to teach. And over the years she did a wonderful job teaching tens of thousands of people about sea turtles, their biology and threats to their survival.
"Ila built large tanks in her backyard and took in injured and sick turtles, nursed them back to health, and then released them. Turtles unable to be released were put on display to the public in her backyard. She held shows in her backyard every day, often several times each day, and she tirelessly educated those willing to listen...and pay a small fee. Ila used this money to support the upkeep of her turtles. In addition Ila provided very generous grants to support conservation and research that helped recover sea turtles and their habitats.
"I only met Ila once. In the short time I spent with her I was most impressed with her dedication to sea turtles as well as her generosity and her love for engaging people in discussion about sea turtles. She accomplished a great deal in her 95 years. In all my years of working with sea turtles I have never seen anyone hug a turtle the way Ila did."
Dr. Plotkin's tribute prompted these memories from Dr. Richard Byles, a member of the Board of Directors of Sea Turtle Inc. His farewell lovingly captures the spirit that made Ila Loetcher so special.
"Ila was truly an inspiration to many. She was old in years and young in spirit when I first met her in 1978. Ila used to dress her "pets" up and perform skits for school-aged children. It sure got their attention. Her companion, Evelyn Sizemore, was even seamstress to the bale of turtles Ila kept. At first, I was dismayed at the shows she put on, I guess because it was seemingly unseemly and embarrassing to me as a young activist embarking on a sea turtle-influenced career. After all, weren't these endangered species? But she soon persuaded me that she was foremost a champion of sea turtles. She swayed me, not through words, but by dint of her heartfelt enthusiasm for bringing the plight of sea turtles before the public. And her success in doing so.
"Did you know that Ila was a pilot and friend of Amelia Earhart? She flew at a time when women were rarely found in the ranks of aviators and adventurers.
So even before the turtles captured her attention, she was an inspiration. She was a bold and charming woman. She charmed the public and spread the word about the declines of sea turtles and she charmed me. I remember one time when Pat Burchfield and I took Ila to dinner at Blackbeard's on South Padre. She was ready when we picked her up at home, dressed in a octogenarian floral print dress and running shoes. At that time, old people never wore tennis shoes and I personally had never seen such casual footgear worn with a dress. I think she unknowingly helped to spawn the term, "little-old-lady-in-tennis-shoes." She was in her eighties, slim, almost frail in appearance, but was sprightly and had a twinkle in her wrinkled eye. At the restaurant, she ordered fried oysters and ate a huge mound of them -- nothing wrong with her constitution. She impressed me with the gusto of her appetite; gusto she had for all of life's pursuits, only one of which was the saving of her cherished sea turtles.
"She confided in me that night how she got her show turtles to flap one flipper in a wave goodbye to the crowds of children she entertained and instructed.
"I just squeeze their arms up near the shell, I suppose it's the armpit. It is like tickling," she said. Well Ila, you sure tickled me. And in turn, I rarely pass an opportunity to tickle juvenile sea turtles I happen to hold. They always wave goodbye. "Goodbye Ila.""
About Sea Turtles:
"Many times, the most powerful education tools are the turtles themselves. These creatures touch the hearts of every single person that walks through our door. Our rehabilitation facility treats 40-100+ sea turtles each year. There are five species of sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico and all are considered "threatened" or "endangered" in the United States. Please take the time to learn some fun facts about these species (and the other 3 species of sea turtles) and how their existence is vital to our own.
A critical portion of Sea Turtle, Inc.'s mission is public education. Each year, Sea Turtle Inc. engages with over 80,000 tourists on South Padre Island. Our goal is to educate the general public about endangered sea turtles and their marine environments. An essential part of endangered species conservation is simply to help people to understand the species and their importance not only to their habitat, but to our lives as well."
"We are home to "Allison", the first sea turtle in the world to use a successful prosthetic! Please enjoy this video of Allison swimming with her harness."
Allison survived a predator attack in 2005 with one remaining flipper. For years, Allison could only swim in circles. Allison has been featured in People Magazine, Discovery Channel, and the Today Show."
One Flippered Sea Turtle Swims With Jacket
"This video shows Allison swimming in her 4th prototype of a prosthetic. This is the first successful sea turtle prosthetic in the world! For more information on Allison and where she lives please visit www.seaturtleinc.org, which is a non-profit sea turtle hospital on South Padre Island, Texas."
Boudreaux the Atlantic Green:
"Boudreaux stranded at the Mansfield jetties on July 6, 2012. His front limbs were entangled in mono-filament line that was still attached to an old fishing rod. All that was left of his front right flipper was a bone fragment sticking out. He had already lost his back left flipper to a prior injury. Boudreaux is an education sea turtle. His purpose is to warn people about the dangers of leaving fishing line to drift in the ocean."
New Year's Celebration
Two reasons not to celebrate New Year's.
What Would Jesus Do Between Christmas and New Years? http://www.ucg.org/blog/what-would-jesus-do-between-christmas-and-new-years/
On This Day:
Rick Nelson dies in a plane crash, Dec 31, 1985:
"Former teen idol Rick Nelson dies in plane crash in De Kalb, Texas, on December 31, 1985.
When the teenage Ricky Nelson launched his pop career in 1957 by picking up a guitar and singing at the end of an episode of The Adventures of Ozzie And Harriet, he established a template for pop-music stardom that inspired hundreds of imitators in the decades that followed.
Beginning with his double-sided hit debut single, "I'm Walkin" b/w "A Teenager's Romance" (1957), Nelson reeled off a string of 30 rockabilly-tinged top 40 hits in the next five years—more than any other artist in the same period save for Elvis Presley and Pat Boone. Like Elvis himself, Nelson saw his commercial appeal take a major hit with the arrival of the Beatles in 1964. Nelson would remain musically relevant over the next decade, though, even earning credit for helping inspire the California sound of artists like Linda Ronstadt and The Eagles with his country-inspired late 1960s work.
Nelson continued to tour frequently, however, and it was on one such tour that he boarded a chartered DC-3 in Guntersville, Alabama, bound for a New Year's Eve appearance in Dallas. Shortly before reaching Dallas, however, the cabin of Nelson's plane apparently filled with smoke due to a fire of undetermined origin. While the two pilots of the plane would survive their attempted emergency landing in a field outside De Kalb, Texas, all seven passengers on board were killed, including the first pop star to cross over from the Nielsen charts to the Billboard chats, Rick Nelson.
In 1987, Rick Nelson was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame—an honor no other former child actor has yet achieved."
Panama Canal turned over to Panama, Dec 31, 1999:
"On this day in 1999, the United States, in accordance with the Torrijos-Carter Treaties, officially hands over control of the Panama Canal, putting the strategic waterway into Panamanian hands for the first time. Crowds of Panamanians celebrated the transfer of the 50-mile canal, which links the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and officially opened when the SS Arcon sailed through on August 15, 1914. Since then, over 922,000 ships have used the canal.
Ships pay tolls to use the canal, based on each vessel's size and cargo volume. In May 2006, the Maersk Dellys paid a record toll of $249,165. The smallest-ever toll--36 cents--was paid by Richard Halliburton, who swam the canal in 1928."
After I had given the critters their breakfasts, except Peekers, Misty and I went to get Jay to take him to town to cash his check and pay a loan. Wrapped up in our coats, we had our walk down there. She enjoys her walks, but she still isn't carrying her tail high or wagging it, so something is bothering her, either her cancer or renal disease.
When we got back here, I loaded Peekers into a carrier. It was his turn to go to our SPCA Cat Habitat until the end of the month, unless he gets adopted during that time.
Nala, my other foster cat, was supposed to go too, but when she heard me getting a carrier, she ran, trembling, under the couch. No sense in taking her, if she is going to be that upset. She was so stressed the last time she was at the Habitat, that I had to bring her back here after 2 days. The Petfinder website has been difficult to use since Nestlé-Purina bought it, so I hope that doesn't hurt her chances of being adopted. She considers this her home, but she should outlive me, and then she will be an older, shy, traumatized cat looking for a 'furever' home.
The first stop was to get Peekers situated in the habitat, and give him his breakfast. He seemed quite at home, ate and played with the toys. He was the first cat to arrive for this month, but some others would be arriving in the afternoon.
As it was on the way, we stopped at Home Depot and picked up my new thick padded toilet seat that I had ordered online. The ones they sell in the stores are too chintzy and have cheap thin foam. I have looked at a lot of them in different stores.
Then we went to Jay's bank and loan company. The Kroger's there had some 10oz packages of walnuts on sale for $1.50, so I bought a load of them.
As we had a gift certificate, we ate at Red Lobster. Jay had the Lobster Pizza, which just had a smattering of lobster, and I had good ole 'fish and chips'. It was haddock, and I haven't had good fish and chips for years. Jay wished he had ordered that, too.
"Beware of Fish without Scales and Fins.
Clearly our Lord, the Law-giver, knew something that has taken scientists years to discover. Now we know that fish with scales AND fins are equipped with a digestive system that prevents the absorption of poisons and toxins into their flesh from the waters they call home. Flounder, cod, haddock, and salmon are a few examples of fish with scales and fins." From: http://www.medicine-plants.com/Articles.asp?ID=271
After I had taken Jay home, let Misty out, and unloaded the van, Nala came and snuggled up to me, so I was glad that I hadn't made her go to the habitat. She would have been petrified if she was there again, she is such a sensitive cat. Then I installed the new toilet seat, which was as good as the reviews about it.
In the late afternoon, Ray and I covered up our plants, as it is supposed to freeze again for the next couple of days.