Ila Meets Dearl Adams
In the early 1960s Dearl Adams, a Brownsville contractor, was elected to spearhead a program named Project Ridley. Project Ridley was created to view and study the nestings and hatchings of sea turtles at Rancho Nuevo in Mexico, and then transplant eggs to Padre Island in the hopes of restoring the Kemp’s ridley nesting rookery there.
In 1966 Ila joined the group and made the trip to Rancho Nuevo where they collected 2000 eggs and brought them back to what they called Ranchito Tortuga, meaning the Turtle Ranch in Spanish. Dearl and Ila had set up Ranchito Tortuga about nine miles north of Andy Bowie Park on Padre Island, and it was here where they ensured that the nests were protected from predators.
Working alongside Dearl Adams and his wife, Ila learned a great deal about sea turtles and what could be done to increase their chances for survival. Dearl's passion and enthusiasm for this work was contagious and Ila soon spent most of her time at Ranchito Tortuga. As she would write several years later, her introduction to the struggles facing sea turtles developed not into a serious hobby but a way of life.