Alpha - The Beginning


In 1967, Project Ridley had a very successful season when, of the 2,000 eggs transferred to South Padre Island, 1,102 hatched.  Because there was the belief that between six and eight years after they are born mature females return to the site of their births to lay their own eggs, in the spring of 1973 Ranchito Tortuga came to life and the turtle watch began.

Volunteers patrolled the beach twice daily through June of that year but sadly, no turtles nor tracks were ever sighted.  Nonetheless, there was hope that maybe some would return the subsequent year.

Then, on May 13, 1974, a lone female Kemp's ridley wearily made her way from the sea, pulling her weight with her two front flippers.  She was immediately taken to Ranchito Tortuga, where she laid 117 round sea turtle eggs.  Being the first, she was named Alpha, then after being tagged with number 1,011 she disappeared back into the sea.

For protection, Alpha’s eggs were carefully buried in the sand and the nest area was surrounded by a wire cage that would not allow crabs or other predators in.  After a fifty-two day incubation period, on July 4, 1974, a hatchling crawled out of the sand and into Ila’s hands. He was Alpha's first baby and weighed but a half of an ounce. His birth, on the Fourth of July no less, was truly cause for celebration.

Ila named him Yankee Doodle Dandy and they immediately bonded. Ila decided to keep him and later she, together with Yankee Doodle Dandy, were dignitaries in many parades and Fourth of July celebrations. With his patriotic costume and natural charm, Yankee Doodle soon became a favorite of the press.

His mother, Alpha, had made history as the first documented sea turtle to nest on Padre Island in more than twenty years and, as such, marked the beginning of a new Atlantic Ridley rookery, fulfilling a long-time dream of Dearl Adams, his wife, and Ila.

Alpha makes history when she nests on South Padre Island
Alpha crawls across the South Padre Island beach where she made history

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