"Don't you touch my turtle babies," warned the voice coming from a tiny camping trailer on the beach at Xcacel, Quintana Roo, Mexico. That was my introduction to the famous turtle lady, Ila Fox Loetscher; the year was 1994. She was a thin, bent over, sun-weathered 90-year-old, but she was a formidable woman. I had seen her featured in a television documentary about her work to save the sea turtles and her appearances on talk shows where she promoted the importance of the turtles.
Her mood shifted as she realized we did not pose a danger to the baby turtles, but noted our interest in her work. Happily, she spoke at length about the nearby sea turtle pens and how the volunteer program worked. The hatchlings were cute, little wriggly things, and this step in their beginning would assure that more of them would survive. There were others further along in their development, and another pen held turtles that were recovering from injury.
We thanked her for her time, bought a sea turtle t-shirt, and dropped some money into the donation box before leaving. Since that day I've thought many times about her work and her legacy. She spent more than forty years of her life doing this work, and it was beginning to make a difference. Today there are several organizations working to keep the turtles from extinction; it is an ongoing fight against the negative impact of humans on the environment which dramatically alters the fate of species such as the sea turtle. This awareness has made a difference in the way that many of us treat the earth. It's about survival: our own and the diverse plant and animal life with which we share the planet.
Sea turtles are a part of the web that is necessary to maintain balance in nature. NPL has a number of resources for kids featuring the sea turtle. Check it out!