The New Eco Role Models
Saving the Earth one village, turtle, and bag of recyclables at a time. (And what you can do too.)
By Amanda Robb
O, The Oprah Magazine | From the April 2009 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine
Founder, Help Endangered Animals–Ridley Turtles (HEART), Houston
How She Started: I moved to Houston in 1973, and a few years later I went to the Galveston coast to see the Kemp's ridley hatchlings; they were kept in buckets until they could fend for themselves in the ocean. When I came back to see them in 1982, the program's budget was about to be cut, even though there were only about 600 nesting females in the world. So I organized a field trip for my daughter's elementary school. Of course, the kids loved the turtles. We started HEART, wrote letters to President Ronald Reagan, and sponsored turtles. The program was funded for another 10 years.
Biggest Challenge: For years turtles were drowned by the thousands in shrimp trawls. So the National Marine Fisheries Service created a Turtle Excluder Device (TED) to allow turtles to escape. The shrimp industry didn't want to use the TEDs. A lot of hardworking people resented a homemaker telling them to alter the way they fished.
Biggest Success: Watching the Kemp's ridley population grow. Seeing some of the turtles raised on the Texas Gulf Coast return there. Last year we had 195 nests.
How She's Done This for So Long: There was never a point I could say, "Time to quit." There's always work to be done.
Just One Thing You Can Do: If you see a sea turtle, don't touch it. Protect it from traffic and people; if you're in Texas, call 866-TURTLE5 and volunteers will provide information or come to the site.