SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, Texas (KVEO) – It took a colossal effort by the community to get 5,000 sea turtles to safety.
These are some of the photos from those who donated their time and money to ensure the preservation of their species.
When cold-stunned, sea turtles are unable to move and become susceptible to drowning, predators, and the elements.
Hundreds of volunteers from all over the Rio Grande Valley used their own resources to pull off an unprecedented sea turtle rescue effort.
Sea Turtle, Inc., a sea turtle conservation nonprofit, took in an overwhelming amount of sea turtles while dealing with a power outage at their own facility and the South Padre Island Convention Center, where they were allowed to place the overflow.
Big donations came from SpaceX and Bert Ogden. SpaceX donated a generator for the facility after they had lost power. Bert Ogden donated trucks and trailers to transport sea turtles.
This weekend, over 2,000 sea turtles were released back into the Gulf of Mexico. Many remain under their care for further treatment. Sea turtle, Inc. continues to ask for donations as they continue to take on this task.
These are photos taken by the community, most of whom experienced the effects of the cold at home. Some risked their vehicles and others traveled long distances to help.
“I’d have to say my most memorable moment was the teamwork involved with that big Boy. The way everyone worked together was truly inspiring. Even people who were just watching stepped in to help us move that big turtle. When one person fell everyone else held on till they got up again. It was beautiful to see people coming together that way,” said Alana Simon.
“Henry Rodriguez from Henry Charters, Marcos Vega from Apex Anglers, and Patrick Murphy. These guys (I mean heroes) began rescue efforts on Valentine’s Day at 4:00 a.m. with winds at 45 mph with temperatures at 27 degrees on Barracuda Cove at South Padre Island via Henry’s Charters boat. I am beyond proud of these guys,” said Prisci Roca Tipton.
A GoFundMe has been posted to repair Henry Rodrigue’s boat after it sustained damages while rescuing sea turtles.
“The girls went to the convention center early in the week to drop off supplies. While they were there, a man by the name of Shane Wilson, who took the time to stop and talk with the girls about what was going on and how they could help. Us moms decided we’d just go outside the campground and started at the Blue Marlin who was more than happy to have the girls. They stood at the door and within a few hours they raised $1,000,” said Katie Vasiloff.
The large female was named “Shane” after the volunteer who first spotted her. It took five people to lift her.
“We brought her [to the convention center], we thought she was done. We thought she didn’t make it, but it turned out she was a fighter, she survived. I got a call the next day, she broke out of her enclosure, she was already all over the other turtles. So once I found that out, I was like, ‘I’m making a difference,'” said TJ Reyna of TJ Boom Fishing.
“It was nice seeing the community come together and collectively helping out these turtles because it took an army to get this done. It was a nice feeling being able to see the turtles slide down the slide off the back of the boat and start swimming again,” said Shane Backus.
“Rescuing stunned sea turtles and all of the rescue efforts that were demonstrated while battling extreme weather conditions gave me and my family the reassurance that there’s still good in this world. This historic event has changed my family’s lives forever,” said Nilsa Guajardo.
“We are passionate about the environment and love nature and being outdoors. Nature has given so much to us so we felt this was the perfect opportunity to give back and help these turtles in need. We know these turtles are endangered and we want future generations to be able to enjoy and appreciate them the way we have been able to,” said Jazmin Barrientos.
“My son saw this post and asked me to take him to deliverer 20 bottles when we had no light or water at home. We live in Pharr,” said Dora Proa-Gonzalez.
“Glad and blessed to of been able to help. It was a sad sight to see out there. But to see the community come together was amazing. Warmed my heart. Thank you to all our fellow volunteers. God bless us all even our lovely creatures of this world,” Agro Juarez.
“They trusted us to save their lives, and thanks to them, our community united all together as one like never before,” said Nieves Blademir.