22 March 2012

Organization set to celebrate 'World Turtle Day'

Turtles are gentle reptiles that are loved by people all over the world, but there is little information available to educate us on what we can do for turtles, especially now that keeping turtles as pets has become so popular.

Many of us are unaware of the decline in the turtle population. It is sad to think that these kind creatures are quickly disappearing due to the exotic food industry, cruel pet trade and habitat destruction.

Thankfully, there will be a day for us to learn more about turtles, and to take the time to appreciate them.

For the 12th year, the American Tortoise Rescue (ATR) is sponsoring World Turtle Day on May 23 to help people celebrate and protect turtles all over the world. On Sunday, May 20, a benefit will be held at The Shack in Santa Monica, at 2518 Wilshire Blvd. The benefit aims to raise money for the American Tortoise Rescue. A $20 donation is requested and the event will hold raffles, prizes and complimentary snacks. Space is limited, so RSVP fast and don't miss out!

“World Turtle Day was started 12 years ago to increase respect and knowledge for the world’s oldest creatures,” said Susan Tellem, co-founder of ATR. “We are seeing smaller turtles coming into the rescue meaning that older adults are disappearing from the wild, and the breeding stock is drastically reduced. It is a very sad time for turtles and tortoises of the world.”

Sadly, many sea turtles also lost their lives in the 2010 BP oil spill in Louisiana.

Tellem and ATR co-founder Marshall Thompson explained that experts predict turtles to completely disappear within the next 50 years. To help save turtles, Tellem and Thompson provided many great tips for keeping a turtle as a pet, while also being friendly to the turtle and tortoise population:

Like many other pets, do not buy a turtle or tortoise from a pet shop. This only increases demand from the wild. Remember to ADOPT and say no to pet stores!

At times, it’s tempting to take an animal from the wild, but do not do it. Like other animals, turtles cannot be removed from the wild. Only do so if they are sick or injured.

If you see a tortoise crossing a busy street, help him out a little. Pick him up and send him in the same direction he was going. If you try to make him go back, he is just going to turn right around and go back again.

It is very important to write to legislators and tell them your thoughts. Ask 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 any signs of cruelty or illegal sales of both turtles and tortoises to your local animal control shelter. It is important to keep these numbers readily available so you can make the call at any time.

If a turtle or tortoise less than 4 inches is sold, report the sale. This is illegal everywhere in the U.S. Don’t let anyone get away with it!

Tellem explained that “tiny turtles” (those under 4 inches) need to be kept in warm water, and must eat while  under water to survive.

“Outlaw vendors at downtown Mercados and live food markets throughout the U.S. are a major problem for turtles, especially the ‘red eared slider’ water turtle,” said Tellem. “These poor creatures have an almost 100 percent mortality rate due to ignorance about their care.”

Thanks to the ATR, they will help to put an end to the mistreatment of turtles.

“Our ultimate goal is to stop the illegal trade in turtles and tortoises around the world,” said Thompson. “Our first priority here in the U.S. is to stop pet stores and reptile shows from selling illegal hatchling tortoises and turtles.”

Thompson also explained the importance of educating people who are unfamiliar with the proper care of 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 live turtles into homes where children are under the age of 12.”

It is important to protect these kind creatures and help to keep them with us for as long as possible.
Do your part on May 23rd and celebrate World Turtle Day. Inform your friends and family of the day,
and educate them with all you know about turtles.

For more information on the American Tortoise Rescue, visit http://www.tortoise.com/, or email info@tortoise.com.

Follow ATR on Twitter and be sure to “Like” them on Facebook.

Most importantly, join in on World Turtle Day on Facebook, and don’t forget to celebrate on May 23rd!

Alexandra Beane | Facebook | Twitter
Minnesota Alexandra is a lover of all animals, but has a soft spot for especially dogs and rabbits. She believes that life is not complete without an animal to love. Alexandra is highly passionate about animals and animal rights, and wants to raise awareness of the cruelty that many animals suffer in the best way she knows how, and this is by written word. Alexandra is a recent graduate of Metropolitan State University in Minnesota, with a degree in Professional Writing and a minor in Creative Writing. She absolutely loves to write news and creative nonfiction, and obsesses over spelling and grammar.

Photo credit: Screen capture