Celebrating World Turtle Day and World Sea Turtle Day
Celebrating World Turtle Day and World Sea Turtle Day
World Turtle Day is May 23, closely followed by World Sea Turtle Day on June 16. Although Pure Earth Pets is focused on creating an eco-friendly life for cats and dogs, we love all animals with whom we share the earth. In this blog we will share the importance of turtle and tortoise conservation efforts, as well as ways you can help these animals in your day-to-day life.
Turtle and Tortoise Basics
The word “turtle” is the name for group of reptiles that includes turtles, tortoises, and terrapins. Although people sometimes use these words interchangeably, there are differences. Tortoises are a type of turtle that usually spends most of its life on land. Tortoise’s shells and bodies are made for walking on land. Turtles spend much if not all their life in the water. A terrapin is a type of turtle that lives in a mixture of land and brackish water, like swamps and marshes.
According to an article in BioScience, “Of the 356 species of turtles worldwide, approximately 61% are threatened or already extinct.” There are many threats to turtles, including coastal development and the loss of their habitat, pollution (including plastics), boat strikes, and fishing gear. Poaching of eggs, hunting of turtles, and the sale of turtles for food in wet markets are also a threat to these animals.
The Importance of Turtle and Tortoise Conservation
World Turtle Day was founded in 2000 by Susan Tellum and Marshall Thompson, who are co-founders of American Tortoise Rescue to spread the word about the dangers faced by turtles and tortoises. Like dog or cat rescue, the American Tortoise Rescue saves turtles and tortoises whose owners were unprepared for the reality of caring for one of these animals. They also adopt out rescued turtles and tortoises to people who are ready to bring one into their home.
World Sea Turtle Day is a day dedicated specifically to sea turtles. Sea turtle nesting is an amazing ritual in which female turtles return to the same beach on which they themselves hatched. These females swim thousands of miles to return to the same beach to lay their own eggs. After laying their eggs and covering the nest with sand, the female turtle returns to the sea. The eggs are left to hatch on their own.
According to the Sea Turtle Conservancy, World Sea Turtle Day was founded in honor of Dr. Archie Carr who was an important researcher and advocate for sea turtle conservation. The purpose of World Sea Turtle Day is to spread awareness of steps people can take to protect sea turtles and their nests.
Steps We Can All Take Toward Turtle and Tortoise Conservation
There are some day-to-day things that we can do to help protect turtles and tortoises, no matter where we live.
Keep Pets Away from Turtles and Nests
Whether in a wooded area, near a marsh or swamp, or an oceanfront beach, dogs can be hazardous to turtles and their nests. As dog owners, we can help protect both turtles and tortoises by keeping an eye on our dogs when on our own property. If your dog finds a turtle and picks it up to play, it is important to tell them to drop it and keep the dog away until the turtle can get away. Dog owners who live along the ocean or vacation with their pets can keep their dogs on leash so that they do not disturb or dig up turtle nests.
Reduce and Recycle Plastic
Reducing our use of plastic products is a reoccurring topic in any eco-friendly blog for a reason. Plastics pose a major threat in all areas of the planet. Animals can get trapped in plastic packaging, they can consume large pieces of plastic, or they ingest it once it breaks down into microplastics. By choosing products that are made without plastic, we help all animals, including turtles and tortoises. By correctly recycling or disposing of the plastics that we cannot avoid purchasing, we ensure that those items make it to their proper destination (landfill or recycling center) instead of our natural spaces and waterways.
Support Companies that Clean-Up the Ocean
More products are being made with plastic and nylon garbage that is taken from the ocean during clean-up efforts. By supporting businesses that manufacture products with these materials, you can help fund additional cleanup efforts. You can find a variety of useful and high-quality items, from shoes to water bottles to leggings. In fact, you can start with our favorite, the Spunky Pup Clean Earth Plush Turtle, which saves up to 9 water bottles from ending up in the ocean!
Avoid Interfering with Turtles in the Wild
If you encounter turtles in the wild, one of the best things you can do is to avoid interfering with them. Although it can be tempting to keep a turtle as a pet, it is unfair to remove a turtle from its natural habitat. Even helping them cross the road can cause them harm if done incorrectly. The World Turtle Day site advises, “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.”
If you are vacationing in a beachfront home or if you live along the ocean, remember to turn your outside lights off and keep your curtains or blinds closed. When sea turtles hatch, they are drawn to the water by the light of the moon. However, bright light from beachfront homes can cause turtle hatchlings to become confused, mistake those lights for moonlight, and go the wrong way. The newborn hatchlings do not have the energy to turn around and go back to the sea, so they often perish without ever finding the water.
Boycott The Sale of Turtles for Pets and Food
The Adopt Don’t Shop concept applies to turtles and tortoises. There are turtle and reptile rescue organizations around the world that can help you find your next chelonian friend. The turtle business, whether for food or as pets, is full of horror stories of turtles being tortured and abused in incredibly inhumane ways. While we will spare you the stories we found, you can research them on your own or simply avoid purchasing turtles as pets and not shopping at markets where turtles are sold for food.
To learn more about World Turtle Day or World Sea Turtle Day, check out these great resources: