A new edition of Sea Turtle, Inc.'s Newsletter is here!
View this email in your browser

Healing Vibrations

From the desk of Vet Tech, Brian Thurow

            Mitch undergoes laser treatment

The New Year is bringing many new and exciting changes and additions to Sea Turtle Inc.!  Along with new building construction, growing staff, and a game changing capital campaign, Sea Turtle, Inc. has just considerably improved and expanded the treatment options of our beloved turtles!  By acquiring two different types of lasers---a low-level therapy laser, and a CO2 surgical laser---our turtle hospital can now provide cutting edge medical technology to better treat our sick and injured sea turtles.
I was first introduced to low-level laser therapy over a decade ago while I was working as a veterinary technician at an animal clinic that specialized in holistic and alternative medical treatments.  My experience with this type of therapy was applied specifically towards dogs and cats with muscular-skeletal issues such as arthritis, but at the time, it made an impression on me that this type of therapy, coupled with other treatments, was pretty effective in treating inflammation.  Flash forward several years toward the spring of 2015, under Dr. Tom deMaar’s guidance and wisdom (who is our overseeing veterinarian, as well as the head vet of the Gladys Porter Zoo), we started using low-level laser therapy on our injured sea turtles. From the beginning, I was utterly amazed how well it worked on our turtles. Previously, with turtles that had severe injuries like shark bites or boat strikes, it would take the good part of an entire year to heal the turtle back to the point of being releasable. Now, with the combined use of low-level laser therapy, other medical treatments, (and lots of love and tender care), our turtles are healing in a fraction of the time.

(Mitch's carapace, left, and plastron, below, before laser treatment.)


Low-Level Laser Therapy, or cold laser therapy, is a non-invasive medical treatment that uses the near-infrared wavelength (600 to
980 nm) to alter cellular function and cause cells to produce more energy (increase ATP production). By stimulating more cellular energy, this type of therapy greatly induces cells and tissues to heal faster, cuts down inflammation, reduces edema, fights infection, and even helps alleviate pain. The Gladys Porter Zoo has a low-level laser therapy device, and twice a week we were hauling our turtles all the way to Brownsville to undergo treatment (which was very stressful on our turtles and our staff!). But now, with the acquisition of this type of medical technology, we have greatly increased the ability of our growing clinic to effectively treat our turtles, and we have eliminated the stress of the biweekly drive to the zoo in Brownsville.

Fibropapillomatosis, or more commonly called FP, is a viral infection specific to sea turtles that is characterized by large benign tumors growing on epithelial tissues. This type of viral infection is common to green sea turtles, and it was first documented in Texas, here in the lower Laguna Madre in 2010.  Since this first documented case, Sea Turtle Inc. has observed a progressive increase of Fibropapillomatosis over the years among the green sea turtle population in our waters.   

 With the acquisition of a CO2 cutting surgical laser, Sea Turtle Inc has made a major advancement and investment for our turtles, because now our clinic will be able to surgically treat turtles with Fibropapilloma.  Because FP tumors are highly vascularized, normal surgical methods are not safe to remove tumors from the turtle without risking catastrophic hemorrhaging.  Because the CO2 surgical laser cauterizes tissue as it cuts, it is an effective means to safely remove tumors from a turtle, without risking the animal bleeding out during surgery. Instead of releasing this animal as is, or in the extreme case euthanizing the turtle, Sea Turtle Inc. has significantly increased our medical capabilities and strengthened our commitment and resolve to treat our sick and injured sea turtles.
The acquisition of this exciting new medical technology would not have ever happened without the amazing generosity of our daily visitors and our long-term supporters. When I think about what motivates me most in my day to day work with Sea Turtle Inc., it’s that these turtles inspire and bring out the best in mankind.  I am always humbled and quite frankly floored by the generosity of our patrons and supporters. With absolute sincerity, the turtles and I wish to THANK everybody that donated towards this cause and made all of this possible.    

Mitch after laser treatments.




Community Recognition: Gloria Bates

This month we wish to extend a big thank you to Gloria Bates who has supported Sea Turtle, Inc. in a multitude of ways over the years. Gloria's involvement with Sea Turtle, Inc. goes back to the days of our founder, Ila Loetscher.

Gloria was  a physical education teacher and a shop owner in West Battlelake, a lake resort town in Minnesota. One day a visitor and teacher from Mercedes, TX,  walked into her shop and discovered Gloria was a teacher. She planted a seed in Gloria's head about moving to the Valley and teaching migrant children. Gloria's passion for helping others was piqued. She and her husband decided to try it for one winter, 1968. That attempt became a career and Gloria and her husband Robert, and two sons, Rod and Rex, then 8 and 10 years of age, relocated permanently to the Valley.

In addition to teaching, Gloria and Robert opened Sea Gull Imports, located near the lighthouse in Port Isabel. This is where she met and became friends with Ila. Ila would browse through the items of sea turtle jewelry, clothing, and carvings. On one such visit Ila walked in on Gloria playing the guitar, and that launched Gloria's volunteer career as musician and vocalist for many of Ila's PR shows. Annually, Ila would invite press from across the country to visit. Ila would woo them with her now famous sea turtle entertainment. Gloria would often play the guitar and lead group sing-a-longs about turtles. She reenacted two of those songs for me. To hear her sing "Ila, The Island Turtle Lady",  click here.

Gloria, at 84, is still very active, painting, writing plays, and doing community work. Her most recent play, Milagra Maria, The Angel of the Lighthouse”, was performed on January 28th. She also organizes the PI flea market and has spent the last six months organizing the Market by the Bay. This Arts and Crafts market, held at the Port Isabel Event & Cultural Center ran on three dates this year. The final date is set for February 17-18, from 9am to 5pm. Market by the Bay $1.00 entry fees are generously donated and split by Sea Turtle, Inc. and Port Isabel Animal Shelter.

"End of the Road" Cleanup

Respeta tu Playa Group and Sea Turtle, Inc. combined forces on January 16 and sponsored the 2nd annual "End of the Road" trash pickup. Despite forecasts for heavy winds, over 140 volunteers registered at County Access 6. "Picking" was good from 10 to noon, when the winds started gaining speed. By 1pm, it was pretty tough to hold a bag open, yet five truckloads of trash, like the one pictured here, were hauled off the beach.

Volunteers worked their way north of access 6, scouring 2.7 miles of beach.  The Adopt-a-Beach program requires that each volunteer tally their findings. This information is then shared with Ocean Conservancy who conducts research into  how trash impacts our nesting beaches. The Ocean Conservancy has recently named the following as the deadliest ocean trash. Next to the the items are the pieces per item tallied from the cleanup. Fishing gear (948), Plastic bags and utensils (1005), Balloons, (44), Cigarette Butts (67), and Bottle Caps (2974).  Although larger items did not make the top five list, they are incredible eye sores and often break down into more deadly trash. Clorox bottles, foam coolers, rubber tires, and rope, yards and yards of it are a few examples of what helped fill those trucks. Often when attempting to remove a plastic bottle, volunteers would have a difficult time picking it up. As Jose Sanchez, Respeta Group member and lyricist and musician writes, "Most of the plastic I saw, however, was thin shards of many colors, shards that had once been part of some container or toy. There was no way to know anymore what the original object had been. When I tried to pick these pieces up, they would disintegrate in my hand and become smaller pieces. This type of debris was concentrated around the little sand dunes where the wind had blown them."

Many volunteers were at the event last year as well. Randy and Malinda Hardcastle, who were featured in last year's clean up, were our first registrants. Dallas natives, they spend a lot of winter time at the beach. "Picking up trash is something we do everyday," Randy said. Our furthest traveled award this year goes to the Clay and Carly Dunsworth family from Blanchard, Oklahoma, 735 miles away. Carly had always wanted to do a beach cleanup. When they saw the cleanup event posted on our Facebook page, they decided to drive here and celebrate Carly's birthday as a family, doing something they find very important. They also took the opportunity to visit Sea Turtle, Inc. Pictured here are Clay and Carly, daughters Clair, Elizabeth, and son Isaac, all still smiling after a long trip and a flat tire in front of County Access 6.

Since the event in January 2015, Respeta tu Playa Group has permanently adopted a mile at county beach access 6. As part of the Adopt-A-Beach program, they are required to do one special clean up and participate in two coastal Adopt-A-Beach cleanups at this site.  They have named the Saturday of Martin Luther King weekend, weather dependent, as the special cleanup date. A  Respeta tu Playa Group volunteer said, "National Service day coincides with Martin Luther King day. We feel strongly about helping others, especially children, feel a connection to and a respect for their earth. We felt this was a most befitting day to do our special beach cleanup, and we hope that we will be able to involve more and more people each year. "

Respeta tu Playa Group will also be participating in the Winter Texan Adopt-A-Beach on Friday, February 12, from 8:30 am to noon. Go to www.texasadoptabeach.org for more information.  Again to quote Jose Sanchez, "As the tide of tourists and local vacationers keeps rolling over the Queen Isabella Bridge, the garbage and refuse continues to collect on the sand dunes. And just like that ocean tide, our little band of garbage collectors will continue to sandpiper the dunes in search of plastic bottle caps, aluminum cans, diapers, and the ever elusive men’s underwear! Come join us sometime.

Volunteer Recognition

Dan and Chris Freeman have always enjoyed sea life. As scuba divers, they became especially fond of their encounters with sea turtles. The Freemans moved to Port Isabel in 2013 from Illinois after spending a few winters on the island. They started volunteering in 2014 by helping with beach patrol during nesting season and then became involved as Allison's lifeguards.  Chris says, "Both of these jobs are wonderful.  Patrolling gives us a great reason to get out and walk the beaches, and we love meeting the visitors at Sea Turtle, Inc. and educating them about the turtles."

Dan and Chris also help patrol the shores when we get a cold spell looking for cold stunned turtles. "Helping with releases and seeing  the turtles returned to the sea is food for the soul!  We have helped out with other events...fund raisers, beach clean ups, booths at events.  We love having STI being part of our life."

Sea Turtle, Inc. loves having Dan and Chris Freeman as volunteers!

To volunteer go to: http://www.seaturtleinc.org/volunteering-internships/volunteer/

The Turtle Corral:  Where We’ve Been, Where We’re Going!

By Sheryl Jones, Itinerant Author
(pictured with Jeff George below)

In the late 1950’s a young widow named Ila Loetscher moved to South Padre Island and began what is today, one of the largest attractions on the island, Sea Turtle, Incorporated, locally known as Sea Turtle, Inc. or STI.
Ila became involved in sea turtle conservation in northern Mexico in the 1960’s and later began promoting the rescuing and rehabilitation of endangered sea turtles on South Padre Island.
The story of how Sea Turtle, Inc. continued and grew into the large turtle rescue hospital it is today is explained in a book, released in June of 2015, “The Turtle Corral,” Saving the Turtles of South Padre Island.

Ten years ago when I met Jeff George, there were perhaps seven or eight turtle tanks.  The “auditorium” was metal risers, three across and four tall.  Today the presentation area seats 100 and looks out onto the bay.  But it is still not large enough to serve all the people who come to see the turtles!  In July of 2015, STI kept a record of visitors and at least 1,500 came every open day that month. 
I knew several years ago that the story of how Sea Turtle, Inc. has evolved into such a wonderful and respected entity should be told.  I was finally given permission to write that book in January of 2015.  It is now for sale in the gift shop and online here. I encourage you to buy a copy so you will know where STI is going and how we got there.  I know you support Sea Turtle, Inc. because you receive this newsletter.  The new facility is gradually being built as I write this, and I’m sure you will receive updates as each new brick or wall is put into place.
In “The Turtle Corral” you will find the stories of Allison and Gerry and Fred and discover just how STI saves so many sea turtles.  The corral itself is a nursery for the newly laid eggs, and watching those babies hatch and scramble over the sandy beach on their way to the ocean creates an emotion not to be missed.  But if you can’t see it in person then watching online and reading about it almost fills the bill. So join the hundreds of fans who have the book and know that when you buy one, the proceeds help save a turtle, help build a new facility, and help educate children and adults alike.
When a child experiences the wonder of a hatchling release, either in person or vicariously, the potential is planted for them to become a marine life advocate as an adult. I hope you enjoy reading “the Turtle Corral to yourself and your children. And each time that happens, there is a sea turtle smiling somewhere!

Patient Updates


 New Patients


Shakira was found 12/28/2015 about a mile North of County Access 5. Shakira has very severe injuries and is in ICU. Her carapace is severely cracked, her left front flipper is broken, and she has FP. She is being given laser therapy and is a potential candidate for our new CO2 laser. (see laser story above.)

Bobby was brought in on 12/29/2015 by custom agents. Bobby was found floating in the shipping channel and unable to dive. Bobby has been moved from ICU to an outdoor rehabilitation tank. He has recovered nicely and is awaiting release.


Prior Patients


Meatball, pictured left, was our poster child for our "End of the Road"  beach cleanup.  (see story above) He is getting stronger every day and is swimming around with Lizz and Mitch. Lizz is just waiting on warmer weather to be released, and Mitch, as you saw in the laser story above, is healing. The latest X-Ray of the flipper showed further improvement.  Buddha is growing daily and thriving, and should be moving to a bigger tank soon.

Hula, our little Hawksbill, has been gaining weight and lots of attention as she recuperates. Her breathing sounds better, and she is more active. She is still on meds, and is benefiting from laser therapy. Hula also still suffers from buoyancy problems that cause her to float as a symptom of her injuries. Small weights have been applied to her shell to help her dive.
Become a member to read the history of our patients and to watch them swim on our underwater and ICU webcams.

STI Welcomes Two New Staff Members

Bailey Lucas began at Sea Turtle, Inc. as an intern in 2013, which she says was an unforgettable experience. After completing her bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies and Spanish from the University of Wisconsin, in Madison, she dreamed of finding her way closer to the coast. She says, “I had a hard time leaving Sea Turtle, Inc. after an amazing internship at an incredible organization. When an opportunity came up to go back, I jumped. I am very grateful and excited to be back at Sea Turtle, Inc. expanding my work with sea turtles as a keeper and assistant to our Veterinary Technician. I enjoy taking care of these magnificent creatures and helping with rehabilitation efforts.”
When asked if she had a favorite sea turtle species she replied, “I don’t like choosing a favorite, because I feel passionate about all marine life. They all have such unique and interesting characteristics and histories. I am fascinated by the Kemp's Ridley for its incredible struggle for survival, and I feel proud to be able to take part in such amazing conservation efforts for this species. I also have a special place in my heart for the Pacific Black sea turtles, which I had the pleasure to work with in BCS, Mexico. I hope I get the chance to work with them again someday.”

Doris Meinerding started volunteering at Sea Turtle, Inc. in 2014 as an admin assistant to Megan Chilcutt, the marketing director.  Doris recently moved from volunteer to staff. She spent 26 years of her career working in Ohio real estate. “As a realtor, you market your product and yourself wherever you go, so working in marketing is not new to me, but houses and sea turtles are very different products. I use to spend hours alone in a house trying to understand its personality, so I could capture the right views and benefits. Now I get to spend time watching turtles and getting to know their personalities. I am greatly enjoying the switch."

Doris received a BS in Education from The Ohio State University and is passionate about Sea Turtle, Inc.'s  education mission. She is also a volunteer with Respeta tu Playa group and helps co-ordinate the End of the Road beach cleanups.

Capital Campaign Progress

Following is a new facility construction timeline and budget. Our visitor numbers increased again in 2015. A larger education facility, more parking and restrooms are sorely needed. As of 11/30/2015 we logged 125,000 visitors, a 14% increase over 2014 figures. Our average daily attendance in July was 1426. Based on these numbers, expansion is imperative to further our education mission.   

Typical Summer Day - Visitors listening to educational presentation. Standing room only.

New Facility Construction Timeline

January 2016:  Complete Drawings/Design
January 2016:  Complete Cost Estimate
February 2016:  Finalize Loan
March 2016:  Bid Construction
June 2016:  Start New Construction
May 2017:  Complete New Construction
December 2017:  Complete Vet Clinic/Existing   

New Facility Budget

Land Acquisition:  $1.0M-Complete
Infrastructure:  $525K-Complete
New Education Center:  $2.9M-2.3 M raised/pledged, $600K Needed
                    Lagoon Walkway:  $250k-Needed
Vet Clinic/Intern Housing:  $600K Needed

For more details and pictures of our building expansion click here.

Sea Turtle, Inc. Wishlist

Running our center requires hundreds of small and inexpensive items that you may have on hand, or be willing to purchase. Below is a list of items we always need. Your support is appreciated at any level of giving. Please drop them off at our facility, or mail them to us.

• A gently used computer tablet.
• Small to medium cast nets.
• Gasoline Cards. We use over 1,000 gallons to patrol during nesting season.
• Chest Type Freezers.  Any size.
• Heavy duty adjustable wrenches. Since we work with salt water our wrenches are constantly rusting and needing to be replaced.
• Office Supply Cards:  Each year, printing and laminating costs hundreds in supplies.
• PVC pipes, all sizes.
• A GoPro camera - used or new, but working.
• Number 61 hp ink cartridges, black and color.

Shop Amazon Smile

Click below to set up Sea Turtle, Inc. as your nonprofit!

Help Us Grow!

We have some serious growing pains and are bursting at the seams!! Years of planning and fundraising has put us close to our dream of building a new facility that can house all the sea turtles we rescue and all the visitors we see. But until that dream becomes a reality, we are cramped!

Thankfully, an anonymous donor has arrived to help us make that dream come true! From now until March 2017 this generous benefactor will match all contributions to Sea Turtle, Inc.’s Capital Campaign — up to $1.3 million! This matching donation has enabled us to undertake the entire project at once, instead of completing in phases.

Our architect will complete the blueprints for the project soon. Then, the plan will go out for bid this spring. If all goes well, shovels will be in the ground late summer.

The total enterprise is predicted to take 15 months to complete, which means as early as 2017 the new state of the art grounds and facilities could be open.
Please help us finish fundraising the new facility and make your dollars stretch twice as far!


Hatchling adoptions help us fund our nest conservation program. We do not receive any government subsidies, and fund our programs 100% from donations and gift shop sales. If you would like to help us help sea turtles, please consider adopting a hatchling!

Want to get notifications about sea turtle releases?

Members get email and text message notifications. Plus, access to both our underwater camera and ICU web cam, and 10% off in the gift shop.

Board of Directors

Chairman — Shane Wilson    
1st Vice Chair— Peggy Fritchey Trahan
2nd Vice Chair — Les Hodgson
Treasurer — John Butler, Ph.D.
Secretary — Mary Laddis
Board Member — Patrick Burchfield, Ph.D.
Board Member — Robin Farris
Board Member — Scott Boruff
Board Member — Robert Cackley
Board Member — Carol DeMoss

Scientific Advisory Board 

Chairman — Patrick Burchfield, Ph.D.
Board member — Kimberly Herrin, DVM
Board member — Jack Woody
Board member — David Owens, Ph.D.
Board member — Joe Flanagan, DVM
Board member — Rene Marquez Millan, Ph.D.
Board member — Wayne Witzell

   Follow Sea Turtle, Inc. online



You can help us build our new facility; all it takes is a small donation.


Editor: Megan Chilcutt, PR & Marketing
Publisher: Doris Meinerding, Marketing Asst. and Megan Chilcutt
Copyright © 2015 Sea Turtle, Inc. All rights reserved.
Monthly Newsletter

Our mailing address is:
P.O. Box 3987
6617 Padre Blvd 
South Padre Island, TX 78597

unsubscribe from this list    update subscription preferences