The Empress and a latter day Noah (of turtles)
Jul 17, 2007 12:00 AM
A chance encounter in a Manhattan Chinese restaurant with a terrapin turtle led Richard Ogust
into living in a tent besides a New Jersey warehouse where he temporarily stored a collection of rare and endangered turtles that had swelled to more than 1,200 specimens. And after decades of hard work caring, feeding and tending to this "assurance colony"--a latter day ark for those species of turtles rapidly disappearing worldwide--he lost it, ultimately spreading the unique animals among like-minded fellows when he could no longer afford to care for them. That is the sad conservation tale told in "The Chances of the World Changing
" tonight on PBS as part of the P.O.V. series [check your local listings as date and time vary.]
But the truth is that this driven man's quest to save these turtles was not in vain. Starting with the diamondback terrapin
he subsequently named "The Empress," Ogust saved thousands from the chopping block. Turtle soup is a favorite worldwide (not just in Southeast Asia, where Ogust focused his work) and does not rest for diminishing wild populations of specific turtle species from Mexico to China to, yes, the United States. Diamondback terrapins are endangered because they proved such a delicacy for refined American palates in the 17th and 18th centuries. One man can--and did--make a difference. Is that eccentricity or responsibility?
Watch the trailer: here
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