American Tortoise Rescue (ATR) (www.tortoise.com), a nonprofit organization established in 1990 for the protection of all species of tortoise and turtle, is sponsoring its 14th annual World Turtle Day™ on May 23rd. The day was created as an observance to help people celebrate and protect turtles and tortoises and their disappearing habitats around the world. Susan Tellem and Marshall Thompson, founders of ATR, advocate humane treatment of all animals, including reptiles. Since 1990, ATR has placed about 3,000 tortoises and turtles in caring homes. ATR assists law enforcement when undersized or endangered turtles are confiscated and provides helpful information and referrals to persons with sick, neglected or abandoned turtles.
“We launched World Turtle Day to increase respect and knowledge for the world’s oldest creatures,” said Tellem. “These gentle animals have been around for 200 million years, yet they are rapidly disappearing as a result of smuggling, the exotic food industry, habitat destruction, global warming and the cruel pet trade,” says Tellem. “We are seeing smaller turtles coming into the rescue meaning that older adults are disappearing from the wild thanks to the pet trade, and the breeding stock is drastically reduced. It is a very sad time for turtles and tortoises of the world.” (See slide showhere.)
Tellem added, “We are thrilled to learn that organizations and individuals throughout the world now are observing World Turtle Day, including those in Pakistan, Borneo, India, Australia, the UK and many other countries.”
Tellem notes that biologists and other experts predict the disappearance of turtles and tortoises within the next 50 years. She recommends that adults and children do a few small things
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that can help to save turtles and tortoises for future generations:
- Never buy a turtle or tortoise from a pet shop as it increases demand from the wild.
- Never remove turtles or tortoises from the wild unless they are sick or injured.
- 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.
- Write letters to legislators asking them to keep sensitive habitat preserved or closed to off road vehicles, and to prevent off shore drilling that can lead to endangered sea turtle deaths.
- Report cruelty or illegal sales of turtles and tortoises to your local animal control shelter.
- Report the use of tiny turtles as prizes at carnivals and other events. It’s illegal.
- Report the sale of any turtle or tortoise of any kind less than four inches. This is illegal to buy and sell them throughout the U.S.
“Our ultimate goal is to stop the illegal trade in turtles and tortoises around the world. Our first priority here in the U.S. is to ask pet stores and reptile shows to stop the sale of hatchling tortoises and turtles without proper information for the buyer,” says Thompson. “For example, many people buy sulcata tortoises as an impulse buy because they are so adorable when they are tiny. The breeders and pet stores frequently do not tell the buyers that this tortoise can grow to 100 pounds or more and needs constant heat throughout the year since they do not hibernate.”
He added, “We also need to educate people and schools about the real risk of contracting salmonella from water turtles. Wash your hands thoroughly every time you touch a turtle or its water, and do not bring turtles into homes where children are under the age of 12.”
For answers to questions and other information visit American Tortoise Rescue online atwww.tortoise.com or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @tortoiserescue; “Like” American Tortoise Rescue on Facebook; and follow World Turtle Day on Facebook.