You might call it Texas’ Day of the Turtle – the state’s very own turtle. On May 10th, a so-called “shell-e-bration” will be held on the first anniversary of the Kemp’s ridley being named the official sea turtle of Texas.
“It will be a fun thing and it will remind people that the Kemp’s ridley is the state’s sea turtle and that it all started in Galveston,” says Carole Allen, the Gulf Office Director for the Sea Turtle Restoration Project headquartered in California. “The Kemp’s ridley has a long history of being in Texas waters. It’s the only one that only nests in the Gulf of Mexico and is found along Texas beaches.”
The free “shell-e-bration” event takes place at Stewart Beach Park from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on May 10, and will include a turtle costume contest, turtle sand sculpture contest, turtle relay races for kids and other family friendly activities.
It all started when fourth graders at Galveston’s Oppe Elementary School organized the “Green Team” to help save the endangered Kemp’s ridley and have it officially recognized by the state. With the help of experts in the field, they studied and researched the turtle’s habitat and history, and then crafted a resolution for the Kemp’s ridley to become the state’s official sea turtle.
What they wrote became the basis of a bill introduced to the Texas Legislature by State Representative Craig Eiland of Galveston. The bill was eventually approved by the House and Senate, and became official when Governor Rick Perry signed it on May 10, 2013.
“The Kemp’s ridley is only in the Gulf of Mexico and was almost extinct, but now it’s beginning to recover,” says Allen. “The kids were very excited and they did a good job, so we’re going to celebrate it.” She adds the “shell-e-bration” will likely turn into an annual event.
The event will include posing for photos with “ROB the Ridley,” a costumed black and white Kemp’s ridley mascot. Students at River Oaks Baptist School raised $1,500 to create the costume, says Allen, and the mascot was named “ROB” after the school in their honor. The black and white costume represents the turtles as juveniles. When adults, they become olive green with a yellowish under-shell.
To protect nesting turtles, Allen urges Galveston area residents and visitors to call 866 turtle-5 if they see a Kemp’s ridley dig a nest or if they see a set of large sea turtle tracks on the beach.
“The turtles represent a natural resource that belongs to Texas,” she says. “It’s our turtle.”
For more information
Turtle Island Restoration Network
Local office for the Sea Turtle Restoration Project: firstname.lastname@example.org
Celebrate Kemp’s ridley Conservation Day
Be part of the “shell-e-bration” on the first anniversary of the Kemp’s Ridley being named Texas’s state sea turtle. This free, family event is an outdoor festival featuring a variety of turtle and marine-related activities, exhibits and crafts.
Photo opportunities with “ROB” the ridley (11 am -11:45 am)
- Turtle costume contest, judging at noon. “Ridley’s rule!”
- Turtle Sand Sculptor Contest, judging at 1 pm. “Lone Star Turtle Sculptor”.
- Turtle relay races, only slower! Kids be part of the “Ridley Rally!”
- Registration begins at 11 am for costume and sand sculptor contests.
Stewart Beach Park, 201 Seawall Blvd. (In front of the pavilion)