If you’re a turtle or tortoise fan, there’s a way to celebrate your fandom coming up later this month.
American Tortoise Rescue (ATR), a nonprofit organization established in 1990 for the protection of all species of turtles and tortoises, is “shellebrating” its 22nd international “World Turtle Day®” on May 23rd.
ATR created and launched WorldTurtleDay.org to increase respect for and knowledge about one of the world’s oldest creatures. Now observed around the globe, turtle and tortoise lovers show their appreciation of the special day by taking “shellfies” and “shellebrating” with events and shares on social media.
Millions of turtle lovers in the U.S., Canada, United Kingdom, Borneo, India, Australia, Greece and many other countries worldwide now observe the day with thousands of educational events, parties, fundraisers and more.
According to Susan Tellem, who co-founded the ATR sanctuary with her husband, Marshall Thompson, 32 years ago:
“These sentient beings are amazing creatures that outlasted dinosaurs and live 25, 50, 100 years or more. When they are allowed to live wild in a safe environment at the sanctuary, they search for food, do funny things like walking backwards or honking, and most important, have relationships with other turtles, sometimes procreating.”
While turtles have survived 200 million years, they are rapidly disappearing as a result of smuggling, habitat destruction, climate change, the pet trade and live exotic food markets domestically and internationally. About 61 percent of turtles worldwide are threatened or already extinct. According to experts, turtles are the most threatened of the major groups of vertebrates, more so than birds, mammals and fish.
Tellem says this is why education is so important in every country globally so that turtles can be treasured, not smuggled, sold or eliminated:
“Ideally, all turtles should live in the wild, but realistically this is not always possible. Too many are sold at pet stores, by street vendors, or used as prizes at carnivals and other events. Thankfully, there are many more rescues and sanctuaries now, as well as loving homes. These turtles can safely live out their long lives.”