World Turtle Day is an annual event sponsored by America Tortoise Rescue. The day was organised to raise awareness about turtles and tortoises around the world that face challenges to their survival.
The founders of ATR Susan Tellem and Marshall Thompson began World Turtle Day 15 years ago to increase knowledge around 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 and the cruel pet trade,” says Tellem.
More and more, Tellem and Thompson are seeing an increase in smaller turtles being surrendered to the rescue, which means that there is a shortage of older adults in the wild, “it is a very sad time for turtles and tortoises”. Of the 263 species of freshwater and terrestrial turtles, 117 species are considered threatened, 73 endangered or critically endangered and one – extinct.
The mission, and so the message of World Turtle Day, is to stop the illegal trade of species around the world and to educate those who are unfamiliar with the proper care needed to keep turtles and tortoises.
Do you want to help? Here are some ways you can help protect the graceful species.
- Never buy a turtle or tortoise from a pet store as it increases demand.
- Never remove them from the wild unless sick or injured.
- If you see a turtle crossing the street, pick it up and take it in the direction it was going – otherwise it will go straight back again.
- Report cruelty and illegal sales of turtles to your local animal shelter.
- Report the sale of any turtle or tortoise of any kind less than 10cm.