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8-year-old moved by sight of sea turtle with plastic straw in nose starts business to save them

COAL VALLEY, Ill. — An Illinois animal enthusiast has taken her love of wildlife to the next level — creating a company and a product that’s helping save aquatic animals near and far, and she’s only 8-years-old.

Nicolina Pappas has always loved animals, but when she saw a video of a sea turtle with a plastic straw stuck in its nose, she knew she had to do something to help, so she created Nicolina’s Turtle Co.

Her mom, Lori, taught Nicolina how to sew, and she’s created more than 100 metal straw pouches with a turtle twist on each one.

“About 500 million [plastic straws] are used in a day in America, and they take 500 years to decompose,” explained Nicolina.

“Because when you offer things like metal straws, it decreases the 500 million plastic straws, and when you offer her bags, it makes a convenient place to put them,” explained Joel Vanderbush from the Niabi Zoo.

Nicolina sells her straw pouches at the Niabi Zoo gift shop, the Botanical Center, and Nahant Marsh — with money raised helping turtles.

“When we talk about the impact, it isn’t just the oceans,” said Vanderbush. “Nicolina may have seen a video with a sea turtle with a straw in its nose, but that can happen to local turtles, that can happen to local fish, otters, and our mink, and any local animal.”

So far, with the some of the money Nicolina has raised, she’s sponsoring seven local turtles, some at the Niabi Zoo and at the Botanical Center. Money from Nicolina’s project goes towards food and care costs for the turtles.

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