World Turtle Day
May is a big month for turtles, so in 2000 the American Tortoise Rescue designated May 23rd as World Turtle Day. The hope is to continue to bring awareness to the problems turtles encounter today, and to engage people in protecting this intriguing reptile. Turtles on land, in freshwater, and in the sea face many life-threatening dangers, mostly man-made. Poaching and illegal trade, entanglement in fishing gear, habitat loss due to development, plastic and other debris, global warming, and pollution kill turtles every day. These factors are leading to many turtle species becoming endangered, which is why World Turtle Day is an opportunity to bring to light these issues.
Here are some things you can do to help save turtles (especially Sea Turtles):
- Work to eliminate bright lights on beaches. Sea Turtles use reflections and light from the moon to find their way back to the ocean; and female turtles will stop coming ashore at night to nest if there is too much light. Artificial light also draws baby turtles away from the ocean, making them confused and vulnerable to predators.
- Throw away less, which means looking for ways to reduce the amount of garbage you accumulate. More and more trash is ending up in our oceans, deceiving turtles into thinking it is food (especially plastic bags and balloons). Simple solution to those: Don’t release balloons into the air and use reusable grocery bags. If there is one thing you drastically reduce, it’s the amount of plastic you use.
- Reduce the amount of chemicals you use in your home, whether it be in the house or in your yard. These chemicals find their way into coastal waters where they basically poison plants and animals. With so many natural and biodegradable solutions out there, why not switch over?
- Avoid turtle nesting areas to avoid disturbing them while they nest; which may mean avoiding the beaches at night.
- Use the best resource you have: You. Organize clean up days on the beach and educate others on what they can do to help. Donate your time or money to one of the many organizations that are already actively working to save turtles. Never buy a turtle at a pet shop, in order to discourage the illegal turtle pet trade.
Though, all turtles could use a little help, the seven species of sea turtles are some of the most endangered species on earth. A small effort can lead to a huge result if we all become a little more aware. It may be as simple as pulling over to help a turtle cross the road or cleaning up a beach. Today, this gentle shelled animal is celebrated and we honor the wisdom they offer (they are one of the oldest species on the planet).
"Come out of your shell, Be well traveled, Slow down, and Think long term."