On May 23, designated World Turtle Day, the American Tortoise Rescue brings awareness to the humane treatment of reptiles in particular by celebrating turtles and tortoises.
Recognition of this day ranges from dressing like turtles and wearing green summer dresses to actively rescuing turtles stranded in the middle of highways. The Turtle and Tortoise Preservation Group creates lesson plans to send to schools so children become more educated on how to better care for turtles.
Across the globe, six out of the seven species of sea turtle carry an endangered classification, and three are considered critically endangered, including the loggerhead. Of all turtle species, the International Union for Conservation of Nature considers 161 of 356 known species critically endangered.
What can you do to protect endangered turtles?
- Avoid products made from tortoiseshell, the largest threat to hawksbill tortoises. Ask the store owner, and get to know how to recognize authentic shell materials.
- Work to reduce the carbon footprint you leave behind, such as unplugging your devices. Even shut off, they can require energy which contributes to global warming. Another method includes eat local, in-season food which reduces the need to transport groceries from other places.
- Remove any trash you see from beaches, and avoid plastic items like grocery bags, bottles, and straws. These become traps for ocean life who mistake it for food and eat it. Plastic bags or balloons can tangle around their legs, shells, and necks, making them unable to swim to escape predators.
- Look for sunscreen brands that promote “reef friendly” materials and avoid those with oxybenzone. The chemicals can pollute the sand and water, damaging their natural habitat. Even lawn products have by-products that get into the groundwater, eventually making it to the ocean.
- Only eat sustainably caught seafood that doesn’t leave nets or fishing lines in the water. These can easily amputate flippers and wrap around their necks.
For those wondering if turtles make good pets, take care with young children who can be too aggressive in handling them, leading to pet stress. Water turtles can also transmit salmonella to children, endangering their health. Research the species to make sure their tank is large enough for their needs. Water filtration systems will make keeping their water clean less labor-intensive, then add any basking lights for warmth. Turtles, if properly cared for, can live a long time in captivity – 30 or 50 years, or even longer!