Each year, about 1,000 people that care about sea turtles gather somewhere in the world to exchange views, share latest techniques and research findings, form alliances, and renew old friendships. MEDASSET can’t always be represented, as travel expenses can be prohibitive, but in 2015 the ISTS, the International Sea Turtle Society’s annual Symposium, came to Dalaman, Turkey, and that meant MEDASSET was able to send a team and get involved on many levels.
One of the events we were delighted to support was the fundraising evening known as “Live Auction Night” – a social occasion that can get quite rowdy. The beer flows freely and everyone is encouraged to spend far too much on items they neither really want nor really need, all in a very good cause… the ISTS’s Travel Grant Fund. Helping to fill those coffers is hugely worthwhile, as the Fund provides financial support to students and others on a low income, enabling the strongest applicants to attend the following year’s Symposium.
MEDASSET took charge of the evening’s pre-auction live entertainment, putting on a Fancy Dress Beauty Pageant. There were some anxious hours when the bag that was stuffed with costumes failed to appear on the carousel at the airport but it finally arrived. A certain amount of arm-twisting, cajoling and blackmail resulted in eight volunteer “models”. Each dressed up as one of the world’s eight sea turtle species with appropriately (well, nearly) decorated carapaces. Rod Mast was Master of Ceremonies and interviewed each “turtle”. We’d like to reproduce his questions and the answers here but we don’t want to risk being prosecuted for indecency; let’s just say that there was an awful lot of sexual innuendo that was deeply (and noisily) appreciated by the audience! Alexander Gaos (Hawksbill) and Aliki Panagopoulou (Loggerhead) were eventually crowned King and Queen of the Symposium, and the Pageant alone raised about $1,000 for the Fund.
As carapace-painter-in-chief, I took it as a massive compliment when the Symposium’s President, Yakup Kaska – long-time friend of MEDASSET – pinched all the carapaces for permanent display at DEKAMER, the nearby Sea Turtle Rescue and Recuperation Centre that he runs at Iztuzu, Dalyan. It was great to see them displayed, already in place above the Centre’s tanks, on the following day!
(Our grateful thanks to Rod Mast the crazy MC, and the brave ‘contestants’: Carmen Mifsud, Thushan Kapurusinghe, Yakup Kaska, Jess Williams, Roldan Valverde, Daniela Freggi, Alexander Gaos and Aliki Panagopoulou. Not forgetting Jen Homcy – the evening’s organiser).