I eagerly await this conference each year. It is a time for me to see old friends, meet new, like-minded people, and become re-energized for another year in the “trenches,” our continual struggle to save the rarest of the rare turtles with very limited resources. Although there are approximately 300 species of freshwater turtles and tortoises in the world, the vast majority of conservation dollars go to save the seven marine species; hence, every penny we can raise at the conference for conservation action is incredibly important.
This brings me to my newest role as a conservation biologist—one that I never envisioned having: I have become the auctioneer at TSA’s annual charity auction. I’m not sure how this happened, perhaps when the conference organizers heard me say that I would sell the shirt off my back to make sure that there are zero turtle extinctions in my lifetime. I guess you need to be careful what you say around turtle biologists that are short on cash!
It is not an easy thing to “entertain” a crowded room of people all while trying to get them to pay exorbitant prices on turtle-themed items. Last year, by using a fair amount of self-deprecating humor, I was, for example, able to sell a turtle-print sarong for $125, a turtle-shaped woman’s purse for almost $200, and a fossil tortoise shell for $500. The whole auction was a lot of fun and a chance for me to be a bit of a stand-up comedian, all while raising over $10,000 for TSA’s field conservation programs.
This year I will reprise my role as auctioneer in the hopes of bringing in even more conservation dollars. TSA has been donated an original piece of incredible artwork depicting a radiated tortoise valued at well over $10,000 by Carel Brest van Kempen, a master painter of the Society of Animal Artists. This is a unique opportunity to own a true masterpiece. Funds raised from its auction will directly benefit future freshwater turtle and tortoise research and conservation efforts. For those of us who aren’t big spenders, there will be limited edition prints available through the Turtle Survival Alliance.
If you are interested in freshwater turtle and tortoise conservation, I strongly encourage you to attend TSA’s conference, being held in Orlando, Florida, from August 16 to 19, 2010. Details…
I’m already practicing my newest jokes and a new, catchy way of saying “SOLD!”
*The San Diego Zoo has been contributing partner of the TSA since its inception, and the TSA has been an active partner in the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research’s conservation project on the red-crowned roof turtle in India.