May 23 is World Turtle Day


English: Turtles. Français : Tortoises. Deutsc...

English: Turtles. Français : Tortoises. Deutsch: Schildkröten. Griechische Schildkröte (Testudo graeca). ¼. Klappschildkröte (Cinosternum pensylvanicum). ¼. Sumpfschildkröte (Cistudo lutaria). ¼. Matamata (Chelys fimbriata). 1/16. Großkopfschildkröte (Platysternum megalocephalurn). ¼. Lederschildkröte (Dermatochelys coriacea). 1/20. Karettschildkröte (Chelone imbricata). 1/20. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Just found out.  Never heard of it before — and I’m rather a turtle & tortoise kind of guy, so you’d think I’d know that.

May 23 is World Turtle Day.  In fact, this is the 13th World Turtle Day.

No grand pronouncements from Congress, probably — American Tortoise Rescue picked a day, and that was that.

American Tortoise Rescue (ATR) is sponsoring its 13th annual World Turtle Day 2013 on May 23rd.  The day was created as an annual observance to help people celebrate and protect turtles and tortoises and their disappearing habitats around the world.  Susan Tellem and Marshall Thompson, founders of ATR, advocate humane treatment of all animals, including reptiles.  Since 1990, ATR has placed about 3,000 tortoises and turtles in caring homes.  ATR assists law enforcement when undersize or endangered turtles are confiscated and provides helpful information and referrals to persons with sick, neglected or abandoned turtles.

“World Turtle Day was started to increase respect and knowledge for the world’s oldest creatures.  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,” says Tellem. “We are seeing smaller turtles coming into the rescue meaning that older adults are disappearing from the wild thanks to the pet trade, and the breeding stock is drastically reduced.  It is a very sad time for turtles and tortoises of the world.”  (See slide show here http://www.slideshare.net/tellem/where-have-all-the-turtles-gone.)

Turtles, Tortoises, and Terrapins are reptiles...

Turtles, Tortoises, and Terrapins are reptiles of the Order Testudines (all living turtles belong to the crown group Chelonia), most of whose body is shielded by a special bony or cartilagenous shell developed from their ribs. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tellem says, “We are thrilled to learn that organizations throughout the world now are observing World Turtle Day, including those in India, Australia, the UK and many other countries.”  Tellem notes that biologists and other experts predict the complete disappearance of these reptiles within the next 50 years.  She recommends that adults and children do a few small things that can help to save turtles and tortoises for the next generation:

  • Never buy a turtle or tortoise from a pet shop as it increases demand from the wild.
  • Never remove turtles or tortoises from the wild unless they are sick or injured.
  • If a tortoise 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.
  • Write letters to legislators asking them to keep sensitive habitat preserved or closed to off road vehicles, and to prevent off shore drilling that can lead to more endangered sea turtle deaths.
  • Report cruelty or illegal sales of turtles and tortoises to your local animal control shelter.
  • Report the sale of any turtle or tortoise of any kind less than four inches.  This is illegal throughout the U.S.

“Our ultimate goal is to stop the illegal trade in turtles and tortoises around the world.  Our first priority here in the U.S. is to stop pet stores and reptile shows from selling illegal hatchling tortoises and turtles,” says Thompson.  “We also need to educate people who are unfamiliar with their proper care about the real risk of contracting salmonella from turtles.  Schools and county fairs are no place for turtles. Wash your hands thoroughly every time you touch a turtle or its water, and do not bring turtles into homes where children are under the age of 12.”

For answers to questions and other information send e-mail to info@tortoise.com; on Twitter @tortoiserescue; “Like” American Tortoise Rescue at www.Facebook.com/AmericanTortoiseRescue; and join World Turtle Day on www.Facebook.com/WorldTurtleDay.

Here’s to you Freddie, the Western Box Tortoise from Idaho, and Truck, the desert tortoise from Southern Utah, the friends of my youth.  And all you others.

Red-eared sliders, turtles at Texas Discovery Gardens - photo by Ed Darrell

Red-eared sliders cluster together to catch the sun on a spring day at Texas Discovery Gardens at Fair Park in Dallas. Photo by Ed Darrell, 2010

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