World Turtle Day began as a means to bring attention and respect to turtles and tortoises. Here in Texas our turtles have had the good fortune to have Ila Loetscher, otherwise known as the Texas turtle lady, draw attention to their plight. A real character, and passionate about turtles, she appeared on Johnny Carson’s The Tonight Show packing a turtle under her arm fashionably attired in an outfit handmade for the occasion.
I’ve never had the good fortune to see any of our Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtles but I remember once being very angry at my brother for waking me in the middle of the night and dragging me to the beach. And there on the beach, in what I would call a trance, was a female turtle laying eggs the size of ping-pong balls. They bounced a bit as each one dropped onto the pile. It was a sight I will never forget.
The extent of the damage of the recent oil spill in the Gulf on our sea friends is not yet known but the first Kemp’s ridley baby was rescued on May 18th. Over 150 dead turtles have washed ashore since the incident began on April 20th. With no clear resolution in sight to the continued gushing of oil on the floor of the Gulf, it is difficult to predict how many turtles will die.
In recognition of this special day I have included a poem. I was surprised to find that chelonians are well represented in poetry circles making it difficult to chose just one!
Ancient Chelonians by ANDERS G.J. RHODIN
Ancient chelonians of lineage primeval
Their survival now threatened by man’s upheaval
We gather together to celebrate our perception
Of turtles and their need for preservation and protection
For turtles forever to play their part ecological
To prosper and maintain their diversity biological
For turtle and tortoise, terrapin and kin
Their kind to preserve, their future to win
We must work together, I tell you from the heart
Whether we work together, or apart.