It is said that every dog has its day. But, sorry Rover, not today; today is World Turtle Day! You may be asking yourself, “Do we really need a World Turtle Day?” Well, if you care about the environment, and if you think that humans have a responsibility to treat this planet and its creatures with as much care as possible, if you believe that we should ensure that the world we leave our children is in as good shape as the one our parents left us, then yes, we need a World Turtle Day.
Do you like Turtles? Turtles are one of the oldest species on this planet, having swum the oceans and ambulated the earth for upwards of 200 million years, enduring flooding, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and climate change including the Ice Age. Turtles, tortises and terrapins come in all shapes and sizes; the largest species, the ocean-dwelling Leatherback turtles, extant for 110 million years, can measure up to nine feet and weigh over thirteen hundred pounds. The smallest species, the Speckled Cape Tortise is only about 3 inches in length.
The American Tortise Rescue has sponsored World Turtle Day since its inception in 2000, with the aim of raising awareness to the plight of turtles everywhere, to help celebrate turtles and tortoises and draw attention to their disappearing habitats worldwide. No surprise here, the greatest threat to these amazing creatures are humans, and human activity. The trade in turtle shells, harvesting of wild turtles for meat and eggs, the thousands of sea turtles that are caught and smothered as bycatch, turtles that die from starvation and poisoning as a result of eating plastic in the ocean, and the destruction of habitat due to development are just a few of the reasons that more and more species are becoming endangered.
In Ontario, turtles are under threat by poachers and the illegal wildlife trade. Ontario has eight species of turtles, and all but one are under threat, by people taking them as pets, aquarium novelties or capturing them for their meat. Believe it or not, there are still restaurants right here in Ontario that insist on putting Turtle Soup on their menu! Of the eight species of turtles in Ontario, only Painted Turtles are not presently classified as threatened, but they still face the same challenges that threaten their existence.
“What humans have done through contributing to habitat loss, hunting, and poaching, is target adult turtles.That increased adult mortality is actually what’s driving the population down,” explains John Urquhart, conservation science manager for Ontario Nature. This, combined with the fact that few young turtles live to adulthood—only seven of every 10,000 snapping turtle eggs—means that species are being driven toward endangerment.”- CottageLife.com
This is why there is a World Turtle Day. And you’re probably wondering what you can do to help. Well here a just a few suggestions, courtesy of tortoise.com:
-Never buy a turtle or tortoise from a pet store as it increases demand from the wild
-Never remove a turtle from the wild unless it is sick or injured
– If you come across a turtle crossing the road or a busy street, pick it up and send it on its way in the same direction it was going-if you try to send it back from where it came it will just turn back around. Especially in spring, it is likely on its way to its nesting area.