Since the rediscovery of the Palawan Pond Turtle in 2003, Dr. Sabine Schoppe has been researching and conserving this rare species. In June 2015, Schoppe, who is director of the Philippine Freshwater Turtle Conservation Program, led the rehabilitation and repatriation efforts for more than 3,900 Palawan pond turtles after they were confiscated from a trader’s warehouse. We caught up with Sabine–the winner of the 2015 Sabin Turtle Conservation Prize–for a Q&A about her love for wildlife and commitment to turtles. (You can also read her full bio here)
Q. How did you develop your passion for wildlife?
A. I have loved animals since I was a little kid. When I did not bring my chickens out in my doll buggy to the forest, I was searching for salamanders and frogs.
Q. What is your favorite part of working in the field?
A. Finding the answers to some of my questions, while at the same time discovering new things I don’t have an explanation for yet.
Q. What is the most rewarding part of your job?
A. To see that efforts are bearing fruit, for example, a turtle hatchling, a hunter “converted” from poaching to assisting with conservation work, meeting a student who is passionate about field work (they are becoming very rare), working with others for a common goal.
Q. What do you love about turtles in particular?
A. They are like me: ancient, tough, and camera-shy.
Q. What does this award mean to you?
A. Being awarded for something I would have done anyway is the greatest reward because it shows that there are people who agree and support my work and approach. I guess most people working on conservation in developing countries mainly encounter challenges and no–or too little–positive reinforcement. Getting positive feedback helps to re-charge the batteries.
Q. Are you hopeful for the future of wildlife? Why or why not?
A. Of course. Hope is what keeps us alive and kicking. In the recent past, a lot has been done for the conservation of wildlife and people are more open-minded about it. However, it’s a race against time and therefore we should never give up.
Q. Why should everyone care about saving wildlife?
A. Because we share the same needs and a place to live!