World Turtle Day® is a yearly celebration and day of awareness for all things turtle, tortoise and terrapin! Established in the year 2000 by the American Tortoise Rescue, World Turtle Day® on May 23rd gives us the opportunity to celebrate the diversity and preservation of these ancient creatures.
- Turtles, tortoises and terrapins are a group of reptiles known as chelonian that live on every continent apart from Antarctica. They have been on our planet for over 230 million years. That means they were around at the same time as the dinosaurs!
- There are 360 known species of chelonian, spanning from the tiny 3-inch speckled padloper tortoise to the humongous leatherback turtle which can grow to up to 8ft!
- Turtles live mostly in water, only leaving to lay eggs on the beach or bask in the sun, and have webbed feet. Tortoises live on land and have stumpy feet like an elephant, with thick claws for digging. Terrapins spend time on land and in water and always live near water. You might find them along a river, pond or lake.
- Turtles and tortoises don’t have teeth. Instead, their mouths have a sharp edge like a bird’s beak that they use to crush their food.
- Turtles and tortoises can live a really long time – the oldest living tortoise in the world is a 190 years old Seychelles giant tortoise called Jonathan, born in 1832. According to his vet, Jonathan’s main interests are sunbathing, eating, sleeping and mating.
Turtles need our help!
Turtles, tortoises and terrapins are amazing creatures, but they need our help. More than half of all species face extinction within this century. This is due to a number of reasons, including loss of habitat, their use in food and medicine and the introduction of invasive species, as well as the pet trade and plastic pollution.
So what can we do to help?
One of the leading dangers to sea turtles is plastic pollution. At every stage of their lives, from being hatched onto a beach overridden with rubbish or swimming through a plastic polluted sea, turtles are in trouble. Sea turtles can easily mistake debris like plastic bags and fishing nets for jellyfish and seaweed and can become seriously ill or can even die from eating them.
But don’t worry, there are steps we can take to reduce plastic pollution and help the sea turtles along the way.
By avoiding single-use plastics and investing in simple things like reusable coffee cups, water bottles, bags and food containers we can reduce the amount of plastic waste that ends up in the sea and on our beaches. Furthermore, by taking part in campaigns like The Big Plastic Count, we can raise awareness of the dangers of single-use plastic and can campaign our governments for a more eco-friendly future!
Word Turtle Day® is the perfect opportunity to donate or to raise awareness of these animals and their futures. Check out https://www.worldturtleday.org/ for more ways to help, and make sure you ‘shell-a-brate’ today!
Blog by OneKind Planet volunteer, Kat Quinn