This May 23rd, American Tortoise Rescue (ATR) will celebrate its 16th World Turtle Day!
The day is really important in raising awareness that ultimately ensures better welfare for these creatures and the chance to stop turtle extinction.
Did you know that turtles have been around for about 200 million years? That’s even before the time that dinosaurs walked the earth!
The big problem is that mistreatment of these beautiful reptiles means that many of them are in danger across the globe. Why? Because the destruction of their habitat, the pet trade and the use of turtles as an exotic food source means that their chances at life are being reduced rapidly.
Susan Tellem and Marshall Thompson, the founders of ATR, say that they are seeing lots of younger turtles coming into the rescue – which means that the adult turtles are vanishing from the wild and as a result there are much less turtles being bred.
Remember the oil spill that was all over the news back in 2010? That cost the lives of many turtles and is again another example of humans putting their own needs before the animals whose habitat they are working in.
But although there is a very serious side to this, World Turtle Day is a chance to learn more about these issues in a more relaxed environment. At a fundraising event in the famous Shack in Santa Monica, California, there will be refreshments, prizes and ‘just a whole lot of turtle talk.’ Sounds good to me!
The ATR founders have noted that experts have predicted the disappearance of turtles within 50 years. To help make even a small change to this situation, they are asking adults and children to help in a few ways.
They ask that no-one buys a turtle or tortoise from a pet shop, and they should never remove an animal from the wild unless it is sick and in need of veterinary assistance.
There are options for people that want to take a more hands on approach too. You could help by writing letters to legislators asking them to keep the habitats belonging to turtles closed off to road vehicles. I remember being on holiday and coming across a place called Lara Bay, which was home to the turtles. Changes were being made because the turtles were attracted to the traffic lights on the nearby road which was of course very dangerous!
ATR also encourages people to report the illegal sales of any turtles to your local animal shelter – as stopping this illegal trade is a big part of the organisation’s work.
For more information about turtles, and what to do if you see one crossing the street, visit the World Turtle Day website.
Discarded plastic is a problem that can also have severe health repercussions. Because floating plastic bags can look like jellyfish and turtles sometimes swallow them – and other creatures have bits of plastic in their stomachs that can lead to problems and even death. So we all need to do our bit to help secure a safer future for endangered marine turtles.