Ila Fox Loetscher
Established in 1939, August 19th is designated as National Aviation Day by the United States and celebrates the development of aviation. Today we want to tell you about aviator turned conservationist Ila Fox Loetscher.
With an interest in aviation and engines from an early age, she became a pilot at 25, making her the first female pilot from Iowa. In 1929 fellow pilot Amelia Earhart wanted to gather together all 117 female pilots in the United States and with Loetscher’s help an organizational meeting was held with 99 women signing up to be part of this group that called themselves the Ninety-Nines.
Moving to South Padre Island off the coast of Texas after the death of her husband in 1955, she developed a great interest in the sea turtles of the area. The island had been home to both Loggerhead and Ridley Key sea turtles but their populations had been decimated by man and natural predators. The Ridley Key was on its way to extinction when members of the Valley Sportsman Club decided to work to bring the turtles back to the area.
Knowing that female turtles return to their place of hatching to lay their own eggs the group knew they had to set up a new rookery if they had a chance at rebuilding the population. The only known nesting site for these particular Ridley turtles was located at Rancho Nuevo in Mexico and Loetscher was invited to work at this nesting site.
So at 61 years old she spent two weeks camped out on this beach falling in love with the Ridley Key and helping to relocate some 200 eggs to South Padre Island. It wasn’t long before she became licensed for the care of sea turtles and started rehabilitating them in her home, using it as an opportunity to teach visitors what they could do to protect these creatures. With so many visitors wanting to help with the conservation efforts, she founded Sea Turtle Inc. in 1977, a non-profit group that is active today continuing her efforts in rehabilitation, education, and conservation.
Written by Angela Goad