Kudos to Russ Gurley
In 2015, theTurtleRoom created a YouTube video called “Why Turtles?” In that video, each of our staff had the opportunity to answer that question, from a very individual perspective. We threw ideas back and forth a bit beforehand, and several people shared one moment as a turning point in their life as a chelonian keeper. That moment stuck out for us, as a time when our eyes were opened and we learned that there was far more to this exciting world than what we had previously known. It was a bit of a step further from my experience seeing the large Alligator Snapping Turtle at the Bronx Zoo at age 9, an experience that would stick with me for life due to the profound eye-opening effect it had on me.
This latter awaking that came about later in life, which I shared with the others, was on a much larger scale. As we grow and continue to learn, we take steps into new worlds we may not have understood previously. I can still remember when I opened “Keeping and Breeding Freshwater Turtles” for the first time. The vast majority of the animals in the book were completely new to me. I would just sit and flip through, sometimes stopping to read an entire husbandry-focused description on a particular species, or just flip from back cover to cover. I flipped through the book until it was about ready to fall apart. In fact, when I had Russ sign my copy in 2015, I was simultaneously proud and embarrassed that it looked like it did, hoping he would be impressed by its wear and not horrified that I didn’t care for the book.
Russ Gurley and I first met in 2011, at Turtle Night, a mini lecture series the Friday night before the National Reptile Breeders Expo begins in Daytona each year. I was thrilled to meet someone who meant so much to me. He was so incredibly nice to my fiancé and I, talking to us about relationships, marriage, and of course, turtles. Years later, I approached Russ about writing a book. His enthusiasm and support made it possible to become an author, something had I merely dreamt about.
Russ has meant so much to the chelonian-loving community. His Turtle and Tortoise Preservation Group (TTPG) remains at the forefront of connecting and supporting captive breeding efforts and fighting for the rights of those champions around the world. He has published many books of his own and has helped countless others, like me, actualize their dream to become an author.
The chelonian world is a better place because Russ Gurley is in it. For the person just coming up in this world, hoping to learn all they can about this area of intrigue, Russ has laid the foundation for you to learn. If you have been keeping animals your entire life and want to learn how you can support others and do what is best for animals in captive situations on a more macro level, Russ has worked to build that network for you. Perhaps you have worked hard to learn all you can on a taxa and want to share that with others. Russ has worked tirelessly to support that as well.
Truth is, many of us owe a lot to Russ. He has dedicated his life to making information available, getting people together and on the same page, and making the world a better place for turtles and tortoises everywhere.