“Shelfies” and “Shellebrations” bring attention to plight of world’s oldest creatures and their disappearing habitats
American Tortoise Rescue, a nonprofit organization established in 1990 for the protection of all species of tortoise and turtle, is celebrating its 17th annual World Turtle Day® on May 23rd. The day was created by ATR to celebrate and protect turtles and tortoises and their disappearing habitats around the world. Now celebrated around the globe, turtle and tortoise lovers are taking “shellfies” and holding “shellebrations” in the US, Canada, Pakistan, Borneo, India, Australia, the UK and many other countries.
ATR launched World Turtle Day to increase respect and knowledge for the world’s oldest creatures. 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. It is a very sad time for turtles and tortoises of the world. (See slide show here.)
Biologists and other experts predict the disappearance of turtles and tortoises within the next 50 years. Adults and children can do a few small things that can help save turtles and tortoises for future generations.
- Never remove turtles or tortoises from the wild unless they are sick or injured.
- If a tortoise is crossing a busy highway, 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.
- Never buy a turtle or tortoise from a pet shop as it increases demand from the wild.
- 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. It is illegal to buy and sell them throughout the U.S.
ATR’s ultimate goal is to stop the illegal trade in turtles and tortoises around the world. The 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. 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.
ATR also educates people and schools about the real risk of contracting salmonella from water turtles. Wash hands thoroughly every time you touch a turtle or its water, and do not bring turtles into schools or homes where children are under the age of 12.