Today is the 12th annual World Turtle Day, a day of recognition for and education about the world’s turtle and tortoise populations, and to inspire people to take action to encourage their survival. Founded in 2000 by the American Tortoise Rescue, this day is celebrated in many ways by people all over the world, including wearing turtle costumes, attending sponsored events, research activities, and even actual rescues and adoptions. The American Tortoise Rescue (ATR) began in 1990, and their efforts have placed around 3,000 rescued turtles and tortoises in forever homes, as well as providing permanent shelter for those reptiles that suffer from health complications that make adoption difficult. If you would like to participate in the conservation of turtles beyond World Turtle Day, the ATR has some suggestions for how to contribute:
- Avoid buying turtles and tortoises from commercial pet stores, as many of these turtles are plucked from the wild, and their purchase increases wild demand.
- Report cruelty or illegal sales to your local animal control shelter. Sale of any turtle less than 4 inches in length is illegal in the entire US.
- Never take a turtle or tortoise from the wild unless it is visibly injured or sick. If you do rescue such an animal, contact the appropriate authorities so that it can receive necessary care from trained professionals.
- If you see a turtle or tortoise in harm’s way on a busy street or highway, pick it up and carry it out of danger in the same direction it was going. If you try to make it go back, it will likely just turn around again.
- Write letters to your legislators asking for protection of their habitat.
Turtles and tortoises have lived on this planet for more than 200 million years, but they face extinction from poaching, habitat destruction, and the pet trade. Even you can help to stifle their decline by taking just the smallest of action! Check in your area to see how you can help save the world’s turtles.