Sea Turtle, Inc. was founded in 1977 by Ila Loetscher, also known as "The Turtle Lady of South Padre Island."
In 1965, Dearyl Adams from Brownsville, Texas was heading up Project Ridley, an experiment to increase sea turtle nesting on Texas beaches. Ila began working with Dearyl at the main nesting site of the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle in Mexico. Ila was 61 years old at the time and spent the 2 weeks camped in Rancho Nuevo and endured the harsh beach conditions of the area to study the Kemp's ridley and soon fell in love with these creatures. Ila started a rehabilitation program to treat injured sea turtles at her home on South Padre Island. Over time word had gotten out about Ila's project and curious visitors to South Padre Island began showing up at her door and of course she invited them in taking this opportunity to speak about the troubles of sea turtles and they might help in saving them from extinction.
Ila was receiving so many guests at her home so, in 1977, she decided to form a non-profit organization called Sea Turtle, Inc. staffed with volunteers that helped with education and rehabilitation. After Ila's health started to fail in 1994, the volunteers stepped up and became more involved in the operation. Ila retired from Sea Turtle Inc. in 1997 for health issues and died in January, 2000 at the age of 95. In January 1999, Sea Turtle, Inc. moved from Ila’s home to its current location at 6617 Padre Blvd. The volunteers kept up her work in preserving sea turtles and today are a very integral part of the organization with a growing list of volunteers.
Over time Sea Turtle Inc. expanded the mission from protection and recovery to education, rehabilitation and conservation. Sea Turtle, Inc today is a 501(C)(3) nonprofit with the sole source of income being public donations and gift shop sales, which are used to achieve these three missions. Donations help with the upkeep of the sea turtles housed at the facility which includes food, medications, water, electricity and more. Also, roughly 20% of donations help fund different resource and conservation projects around the globe, increasing the conservation reach of Sea Turtle Inc. College scholarships are awarded to biology students and the organization is a host for internships for biology students enrolled or recently graduated. Donations are an important source for funding these programs.
There are different ways you can help support Sea Turtle, Inc.
Donate: contributions are tax deductible and help fund the mission.
Volunteer: the foundation of the organization, volunteers provide over 4,000 hours of labor.
Adopt: Sea Turtle Nest and Hatchling Adoptions help fund nest conservation at Sea Turtle Inc.
Membership: memberships help fund our mission, educate the public, and assist with conservation efforts.
Beach Clean Up: Sea Turtle, Inc. is a recipient of a grant through the NOAA Marine Debris Program that funds 4 beach clean-ups throughout the year, most recently the Thanksgiving weekend. Contact Sea Turtle Inc. to find out how you can get involved in the next event.
Watch the video below from 2013 by The Texas Country Reporter and learn more about Sea Turtle Inc.