Sea Turtle Rescuers Await $4M Expansion Project

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SOUTH PADRE ISLAND – Every time there’s a storm in the Gulf of Mexico, hundreds of sea turtles wash up on the beaches of South Padre Island. Luckily, Sea Turtle, Inc. volunteers and staff are ready to take care of them.

Every year, the group patrols Texas beaches looking for those sea turtles in need. Their center is also a favorite destination for people visiting the island.

“We’re watching, of course, Tim Smith and the weather forecast about tropical activity right now. If there’s a nearby tropical storm it blows literally hundreds of these babies on our beaches,” Sea Turtle, Inc. Executive Director Jeffrey George said.

He said Sea Turtle, Inc. was founded by Ila Loetscher, also known as the Turtle Lady, in 1977.

“You’re looking at a 3-week-old Kemps Ridley hatchling that has washed in with a missing flipper. So far this year, we have treated her at Sea Turtle, Inc. (and) about 240 injured sea turtles,” said George.

He said their mission is to rescue, rehabilitate and release the turtles back into the Gulf. Most importantly, they do it to educate the public.

“To promote awareness about how important our oceans are, how important sea turtles are in the oceans and why we need to protect them,” said George. “Not many people form the Mid-west have ever seen a sea turtle. Many of our Valley children have never been to the ocean or seen a sea turtle.”

The turtle rescue group is undergoing an expansion, just in time to celebrate their 40th anniversary.

“Thanks to the generosity of our community, our locals, Valley residents and tourists, we are building a $4.5 million expansion…  I think it’s going to look a lot more like high-end Disney World and Sea World Adventure, which we are proud of,” he said.

George said the organization depends heavily on donations and the work of volunteers and those who believe in their mission.

“I love it. I love this place and I love what they do with sea turtles,” said a visitor.

“My associate degree in biology and my bachelor’s in zoology. It’s been my dream to work with sea turtles since I was 11. So, I went to school to try and make it happen,” said Alec Alterman, intern at Sea Turtle, Inc.

George, a turtle biologist, said he and others are very passionate about their work. 

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