We hear about them in parables of being slow and plodding, steady and methodical, and being occasionally obsessed with Ninjitsu, news reporters, and pizza. We are, of course, talking about Turtles! Turtles are a type of reptile that exists in many environments throughout the world and have found their way into literature, poetry, and parable throughout the world’s history. World Turtle Day celebrates these noble reptiles and their place in the world and encourages people to take action to help protect both the common pet turtle and the ever endangered sea turtle.
History of Turtle Day
Well, the first thing to know is that Turtles and Tortoises are not the same thing, though this day is dedicated to celebrating and protecting both. First created in 1990 by American Tortoise Rescue, World Turtle day recognizes that some species of our hard (and soft!) shelled friends are suffering and almost on the edge of extinction due to environmental hazards, issues with hunting and harvesting of their eggs.
American Tortoise Rescue was created by Susan Tellem and Marshall Thompson, a married pair of animal activists who had a particular passion for tortoises. We all have to have something that drives us in this life, and for these two it was bonding over animal right’s activist work. Don’t think these two are just closet hippies with an overwhelming adoration for all things shelled and scaly.
Susan is deeply involved with television arts & sciences and the public relations society of America while being a partner in Tellem Grody Public Relations Incorporated. They organize charity collections and works around the world to help protect these amazing critters, and created Turtle Day to get everyone involved and spread awareness of the shrinking habitat and declining numbers of these sensitive creatures.
So what is the difference between turtles and tortoises? Although they are both reptiles, the main difference between the two is that turtles live in the water at least some of the time, while tortoises live on the land. Because they live in the water, turtles have streamlined and mostly flat shells, while tortoises often have larger and more domed ones. Our tortoise friends can also live longer than their reptilian cousins. Tortoises can live over 300 years, although their average lifespan can go up to around 150 years. Turtles live up until the age of 40, although one record-breaking turtle almost lived to the age of 90!
Learning the differences between our reptile friends is just one of the educational activities that Turtle Day helps promote. The Turtle and Tortoise Preservation Group (The TTPG) is open to all turtle and tortoise lovers and creates educational material to help teach kids and adults about these reptilian creatures. The TTPG helps those who are breeding turtles to keep them safe from extinction, by providing advice to turtle and tortoise keepers. From anyone who has a faithful four-legged tortoise friend to expert breeders, the TTPG is there to help.
How to celebrate Turtle Day
Well first off, contact American Tortoise Rescue and find out what you can do in your area to help promote the protection of turtles. If there are no activities in your area, work with them to find out what you can do to coordinate with local aquariums, pet stores, and nature groups to focus on the species of this reptile that live in your area. Wherever you are, you can donate online to turtle causes, or even arrange your own charity and awareness campaigns to help support your favorite species. You might want to spare your time rather than your money by getting involved in these events, or simply volunteer at your local pet shop to help out their turtles and tortoises. You don’t have to be near a local conservation area to do your bit to help our reptilian friends. If you do want to visit a local habitat, why not book a trip and go safely through your local charity to see how they support and help the local wildlife? Across the globe, there are hundreds of places you can visit to help support turtles and tortoises with a licensed charity.
If you have your own tortoise or turtle, why not show it some appreciation on its very own special day? Why not buy your turtle a new rock for its terrarium, or build its very own private basking beach if they don’t have one yet. Why not give their tank an early spring deep clean to make sure they’re lounging in the best possible environment for them. Studies show that tortoises can respond to the sound of their owner’s voice (might be because you feed them, or they love you, it’s hard to tell). Why not treat them to some of their favorite broccoli, or even give them a good soak when needed to keep them living their best life.
If you’re not near a turtle or tortoise hub, keeping your nearby beaches clean is equally important for local wildlife and their ecosystem. Keeping your local sandy summer spot free from plastic bags or water bottles will keep the surrounding sea and land life happy. Don’t live near a beach? Plastic can endanger your local wildlife even in an urban environment, and animals from foxes to fish can get caught up in plastic. Why not do a local recycling drive or clear out in your local park as a big thank you to our two, four, and no-legged friends.
They’re an amazing creature, with certain varieties making great pets and others helping to preserve the ecosystem in the waters they live in. Of course, if you live where snapping turtles haunt the waters, it’s probably a good idea that people know how to avoid them, where to find them, and how not to lose a toe! Happy Turtle Day!