Girl Scout’s passion for saving turtles launches 4 endangered Kemp’s Ridleys into Gulf
BILOXI — A two-year labor of love came to fruition Saturday for an Ocean Springs Girl Scout as four endangered sea turtles were released into the Mississippi Sound. The project was a partnership between Asher Day, a second-year Ambassador Scout with Ocean Springs Troop 6217, and Gulfport’s Institute for Marine Mammal Studies. The project was Day’s final step in her pursuit of the Girl Scouts’ Gold Award, the equivalent of the Boy Scouts’ Eagle award.
Thanks to Day’s hard work and persistence, four Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles, the most endangered sea turtle in the world, were returned to the Gulf and Coast residents are more informed about sea turtles and their habitats.
« I started this literally almost two years ago, » Day said. « I was going to do a project on dolphins, but I decided to do Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles. I did workshops in the community and distributed pamphlets because I wanted to educate people on this endangered species and the dangers they face. »
Dennis McGrury of IMMS worked closely with Day, 18, on the project. McGrury was also on the beach across from the White House Hotel on Saturday to oversee the release of the turtles.
« We are releasing four Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles, » he announced. « The Mississippi Sound is where these turtles come as juveniles to eat their favorite food, blue crabs. This is where they transition from juveniles into adults. We are placing them back into their natural habitat. »
McGrury said the some of the turtles had been caught by local fishermen and some had been acquired by IMMS.
« Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles have been declining since the 1950s, » he said. « And while they do face plenty of natural predators, their main threat comes from humans. »
Asher Day’s day
After the turtles were released, Day unveiled a sign at the Biloxi Lighthouse Pier — one of two informational signs Day and her family built and installed. The second is on the beach in Gulfport. Home Depot provided the materials for them.
« The signs have information about the three species we get here, which are Kemp’s Ridleys, green sea turtles and loggerheads, » Day said. « But they mainly focus on the Kemp’s Ridleys because they are the most endangered. They also tell you what you can do to help them. »
McGrury praised Day for her interest in the project.
« I was very impressed when she started this because she was 16, » he said. « She was very passionate about these animals and what she wanted to do. It was an idea that she had and she knew exactly what she wanted to do.
« We need more people like her. These signs she designed will impact visitors to the Coast for years to come and I think that’s a great thing. »
Day said she was « overwhelmed » when about 100 people showed up to watch the turtles begin their passage into the Gulf of Mexico.
« I came to the beach with my twin granddaughters, » Terri Lacy of Ocean Springs said. « Asher grew up near where we live. She’s a good kid and we came out to support her on this project. »