By NADIA TAMEZ-ROBLEDO
BROWNSVILLE — Sea turtles may not be known for their speed on land, but 900 participants in the Ridley Rush at Gladys Porter Zoo helped bolster Kemp’s ridley conservation efforts yesterday morning.
The one-mile run and walk kicked off the 8th annual YappoPalooza Sea Turtle Festival.
The festivities continued after the run with the Yappo Kids Festival, which involved conservation-focused children’s activities.
“I think the best thing about this run is that, because it’s a mile, it gives everyone a chance to participate, even the little kids,” said Charlie Abrego, zoo spokesman. “People have figured out that you have to start exposing kids to conservation at a very young age.”
Children learn that even the simple act of making sure to properly dispose of trash while at the beach can have a big impact on the environment, he said.
Lyssa and Eric Lopez of Harlingen took part in the run with their son, 7-year-old Elliott, and stayed after to take part in the activities.
“We felt like it was a way to be active in the community, and it promotes a healthy lifestyle,” Lyssa Lopez said, “and it’s for a really good cause. I appreciate how they had little events for the kids.”
Eric Lopez said the family has started doing runs together and picked up conservation tips like avoiding plastic straws during the kids festival.
“We’re looking for runs that have a purpose behind them,” he said. “It was different from other runs.”
Alyssa Barrett, a wildlife care manager with the Texas State Aquarium, is part of the aquarium team that rehabilitates sea turtles that have become tangled in fishing line or ingested plastic. She said the youngsters who visited her table to get a stamp on their YappoPalooza “passport” wanted to know how they can help sea turtles.
“I think this is super great,” Barrett said. “This is really important — how we explain the importance of turtle conservation — because ultimately we cause the issues sea turtles can (experience).”
Daisy Ramos of San Benito took part in the run with her 5-year-old son, Damien, and friend Steph Fonseca. Ramos said she enjoyed the educational aspect of the festival as well.
“I just wanted to try a new event that involved my son,” she said, adding it was their first time at the event. “It wasn’t just the run, it was activities for the kids.”
The yearly conservation event is rounded out with a night of craft beer and live music with Yappo Bands and Brewskis. The zoo’s next event will be Kids Appreciation Day in August.