First off, I'm so excited that you found our page and I hope you will continue to follow us on this amazing adventure! I plan on using this blog to discuss conservation issues surrounding the endangered sea turtles along the Coastal Bend region of Texas, the progress we are making in training our sea turtle nest detection canines, and our success stories as we begin to deploy the dogs!
In our first post, I thought I'd share the story of our conception:
My girlfriend LOVES sea turtles and I was trying to find somewhere to take her for her birthday where we could see them. I knew Corpus Christi, Texas has an incredibly nice aquarium (Texas State Aquarium) but I wasn't sure they had sea turtles, so I punched "Sea Turtle Corpus Christi" into Google. The very first thing that popped up was the National Park Service website for the sea turtle program based in the Padre Island National Seashore. The site explained that they collected eggs from nests of the endangered sea turtles, incubated them, and when they hatched, released the hatchlings into the ocean. These hatchling releases are open to the public and are VERY cool to watch if you happen to be around when a nest hatches.
Now, being a detection dog handler, I immediately thought to myself, "self, I bet dogs would be INCREDIBLY helpful in finding sea turtle nests!" So I shot an email to the Sea Turtle Science and Recovery team and inquired if they were using any dogs to aid their efforts. The chief of the team responded to me herself the same day! She said that they had trained her personal dog Ridley Ranger
(https://nationalpurebreddogday.com/ridley-ranger-to-the-rescue/) to help them locate hard to find nests. Unfortunately, Ridley passed away earlier this year.
I asked if they would be interested in having some detection dogs to help out and she responded that while the help would be welcome, their project doesn't have the funds to pay for a dog or handler. Now, I'm a graduate student with a teaching assistantship, so during the school year, I teach undergraduate classes, but in the summer, I am completely free! So at this point, I decided to create K9s4Conservation so I could provide sea turtle nest detection dogs during the summer months to the whole of North Padre Island without cost to the already strapped for funds sea turtle conservation groups.
After a quick drive down to Padre Island, I met with Dr. Shaver and discussed the possible project in person. She liked the idea, gave me some pointers on nesting behaviors of the Kemp's ridley sea turtles (the most endangered of the sea turtles in Texas), helped me acquire some training aids to help the dogs learn what a sea turtle nest smells like, and I went straight home to get to work!
I later discussed the program with one of my good friends from search and rescue, Dr. Alexander of F.I.R.S.T. Detection K9, a team that specializes in training and deploying human remains detection dogs. He really liked the idea and offered to host the project within F.I.R.S.T. Detection K9s 501(c)3 so that we could get to work without having to wait for the long process of starting up a non-profit company from scratch.
I have now obtained two dogs for the program and started training both of them. They will train with me for the next two months in San Marcos on obedience and turtle nest detection skills. In July, we plan to head down to Padre Island and start training on the beach with real turtle nests. As soon as we are confident that the dogs and I are performing well, we will begin to deploy in support of conservation teams to help them save the turtles!
So what can you do to help? First off, SHARE! Share this blog. Share our page. Share our Facebook and InstaGram pages! Second, we need donations*, sponsors, and partners. If you have equipment that may be useful to us like GPS collars, first aid kits, vests, collars, leashes (especially long lines), or branded clothing, signs, or patches, please email us! If your company can sponsor us with donated or discounted equipment or services, we have a section of our main page devoted to thanking our sponsors and partners. We will post a personalized message thanking you for your donations and support, as well as displaying your logo and a link to your website. And finally, we will need financial support. Any little bit helps as it all adds up! You can donate via PayPal by clicking "DONATE" on our main page.
Thanks for reading and THANK YOU for your support!
*Please note that donations are solely for K9s 4 Conservation to allow us to provide free support for turtle conservation on Padre Island. We are NOT collecting money for the National Park Service or any other organization. While we will be working closely with and supporting the National Park Service, K9s 4 Conservation is not a part of that organization.
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