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4 Decades of Saving Sea Turtles on South Padre Island

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Sea Turtle Inc. on South Padre Island, Texas, was established to “…rescue, rehabilitate, and release injured sea turtles, educate the public, and assist with conservation efforts for all marine turtle species.” Founded in 1977 by Ila Fox Loetscher, in 1999, Sea Turtle, Inc. moved from Ila’s backyard into its current location at 6617 Padre Blvd. Originally formed to assist in the recovery and protection of the endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, their mission expanded to include education, rehabilitation, and conservation.

Today, Sea Turtle, Inc.’s sole sources of income are public donations and sales in their gift shop. No government funding is accessed, and as a result, donations aid in the upkeep of the sea turtles that call the facility home. Their upkeep includes medications, diet, water and electricity, heaters, and filters. The income is also used to support their educational programs, sea turtle alternative resource and conservation projects throughout the world, and awarding scholarships to college biology students. Each summer, Sea Turtle Inc. hosts an internship program for recently graduated or presently enrolled biology students, and the following video features Intern Jessica Salvidar providing a tour of the facility in 2007. See how she does and learn more about their oldest resident – Gerald, or Geraldine?

You too can help support Sea Turtle Inc.’s mission through membership purchases, regular visits, participation in educational and conservation programs, and donations directly to their facility. Originally from Iowa, Ila Fox Loetscher was a former pilot, and the sole founder of Sea Turtle, Inc. In 1965, she was recruited by Dearyl Adams in Brownsville, Texas to work at the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle’s principal nesting site in Rancho Nuevo, Mexico. At 61 years old, she willingly volunteered and spent two weeks camped out in rugged beach conditions, resulting in her love affair with the species. She determined to take up their protection and began rehabilitating the injured at her home on South Padre Island. Drawing a number of curious visitors over the years, she took each opportunity to speak about the sea turtles’ plight and talk on how the average tourist could assist in keeping them from extinction. Thus, Sea Turtle Inc. was born, and continues to pursue her dream and passion 40 years later!

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