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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

Give a sea creature for Christmas

With Thanksgiving comes the Christmas shopping season, and the usual wrenching cogitation over what to give whom. Including what to give someone who has everything.

Try a really touching living gift: Adopt a baby sea turtle. They're outlandish, even ugly to look at, and wiggly and ungainly and without any return sentiment for you at all.

And absolutely, irresistibly lovable.

There are thousands to choose from among the Island Turtle Watch orphans, and you get to name the hatchling of your choice. It won't be around for you to cuddle, which probably would be the end of it anyway. It's paddling around in the Gulf of Mexico, avoiding the beaks of birds and the jaws of fish and the fatal discarded trash of mankind. But it's around.

It isn't hard. In fact, Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch does all the work and leaves all the loving to you. Just go to the Turtle Watch Environmental Education Center, 5408 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach, in the Island Shopping Center, and start the process.

Bring $15 to adopt a hatchling, $20 for twins. You can give the adopted young'un as a Christmas gift.

In fact, and here's a nifty idea, bring multiples of the 15 or 20 and adopt a whole bunch of baby loggerheads in the name of friends and relatives and send them their parenthood for Christmas.

Not only will you get a good chunk of Christmas responsibility off your Santa satchel, you will be doing a service to an endangered species and to the environment where it fits. The money goes to the Turtle Watch marine turtle preservation programs.

If dollar-size turtle hatchlings are too small for you, there's another choice manatees. Adopt a sea cow and help the effort to preserve them, for they too are in peril from humans and boats and the usual seagoing diseases.

Same deal goes with manatees as with turtles, same process, same price, different place.

You can adopt a manatee, name it, get an adoption certificate and track it through literature from the sponsors. Just call 1-800-432-5646 to set it up, or send $15 to Save the Manatee Club, 500 N. Maitland Ave., Maitland FL 32751.

Have a fine marine Christmas, and be a good nautical parent.