May 23 is World Turtle Day, an event created to celebrate and increase awareness of turtle species around the world.
This annual celebration was founded in 2000 by American Tortoise Rescue (ATR) to raise awareness of the serious issues surrounding the survival of turtles. According to ATR co-founder Susan Tellem, the date is meant to boost interest in turtles while also pointing a finger at the pet trade. Since 1990, when the organization was founded, ATR has rescued and rehomed over 3,000 turtles.
“World Turtle Day was started to increase respect and knowledge for the world’s oldest creatures,” Tellem says in a press release. “These gentle animals have been around for about 200 million years, yet they are rapidly disappearing as a result of the exotic food industry, habitat destruction, global warming and the cruel pet trade.” The ultimate goal, she adds, “is to stop the illegal trade in turtles and tortoises around the world.”
Turtles are really old! The earliest turtles evolved around 200 million years ago. Since that time, lots of turtle species have disappeared, but today the future of turtles looks especially bleak.
Mother Nature News reports that about half of Earth’s 328 known species of turtles are listed as endangered or threatened with extinction.
In Honor Of World Turtle Day, Here Are 5 Tips For Helping Turtles, from ATR’s Website:
• Never buy a turtle from a pet shop, as it increases demand from the wild.
• Never remove turtles from the wild unless they are sick or injured.
• If a turtle is crossing a busy street, pick it up and send it in the same direction it was going — if you try to make it go back, it will turn right around again.
• Report cruelty or illegal sales of turtles to your local animal control shelter.
• Report the sale of any turtle of any kind less than four inches. This is illegal everywhere in the U.S.
Now Check Out These Great Turtle Photos:
1. Coahuila Box Turtle
Pictured above, these box turtles are so-called because the front and back sides of their shell close up like a box. Most species live on land, but this one is permanently in fresh water in the springs and marshes of Cuatro Cienegas in northern Mexico. Sadly, this species is under threat of extinction because of the continued pumping of water for agricultural as well as residential use.
2. Smooth Snake-Necked Turtle
As its name implies, the neck of Chelodina longicollis is disproportionately long. It also has webbed toes, claws and warty skin which is a gray color. The habitat for most of these turtles is close to streams, rivers, swamps and lagoons of eastern Australia.
3. Galapagos Tortoise
You probably remember reading about Lonesome George, a 100-year-old tortoise from the Galapagos Islands, who died last year at the Galapagos National Park in Ecuador. The Galápagos tortoise or Galápagos giant tortoise is the largest living species of tortoise and 10th-heaviest living reptile: it can weigh as much as 880 pounds. Amazing creatures!
4. Hawksbill Sea Turtle
The hawksbill sea turtle is another critically endangered sea turtle. The species has a worldwide distribution, with Atlantic and Pacific subspecies. The World Conservation Union classifies the hawksbill as critically endangered. This is largely due to human fishing practices known as bycatch: the accidental capture of untargeted species by fishermen, which occurs when sea turtles get caught in gear such as gillnets, trawls and longlines.
5. African Spurred Tortoise
The African spurred tortoise, also known as the African spur thigh tortoise or the sulcata tortoise, lives on the southern edge of the Sahara desert, in countries such as Burkina Faso, Chad, Eritrea, Ethopia, Mail, Mauritania, Nigeria, Senegal and Sudan. It is the third largest species of tortoise in the world and burrows in the ground, where it likes to spend the hottest part of the day.
6. Yellow-Bellied Slider
Yellow bellied sliders eat everything, from aquatic plants to fish, insects and carrion, although adult females are largely herbivorous and young and adult males are more carnivorous. These turtles live in the U.S., in an area stretching from eastern Virginia to northern Florida. They thrive in a number of different freshwater habitats, including lakes, ponds, streams and rivers.
Happy World Turtle Day!
Photo Credit: thinkstock