“Shellebrate” World Turtle Day

Take the plunge to protect turtles and tortoises by celebrating World Turtle Day, observed May 23rd each year to increase awareness, respect, and knowledge of these amazing shelled creatures. These turtle-y awesome reptiles deserve to be celebrated and protected. Do you know all of these fascinating turtle facts?

Turtles Are Living Dinosaurs

Turtles are one of the oldest reptile species on Earth, with some fossils dating back to the Triassic Period. That’s 220 million years ago!

They haven’t changed much since then. Most Testudines fossils closely resemble the turtles and tortoises that still slowly wander our planet.

Turtles Live Very Long Lives

There’s a tortoise living on Saint Helena that’s estimated to have hatched in 1832. That’s old enough to have heard the news from the Battle of the Alamo as it happened, to learn of the invention of the telegraph, and see the outcome of the American Civil War.

Turtles are one of the longest living species on Earth. Most turtles, including those in the pet shop, can live up to 40 years. Land-dwelling tortoises live between 50 and 100 years.

Turtles proudly wear their ages on their shells. Each plate of a turtle’s shell has rings and layers, similar to a tree. These rings denote growth spurts in a turtle’s life. While not as regular as a tree’s growth, these rings can help determine how old a turtle is.

Almost Half of the 300 Species of Turtles and Tortoises Are Endangered

From Loggerhead turtles to red-eared sliders to gopher tortoises, the number of shelled-creatures that roam the Earth is shrinking. Today, 130 of the 300 species of turtles and tortoises are considered endangered.

This is because they face a wide range of threats, mostly caused by humans. Habitat destruction has left many tortoises and turtles without food, refuge, and a safe place to lay their eggs. Turtles are taken from their natural habitats and wind up living in tanks and cages in human homes or poached for their eggs and meat. 

Turtles have also been swept up in the devastating impact of human pollution. Many sea turtles mistake plastic bags, straws, and packaging as their natural prey, jellyfish. Plastic fills their stomachs and causes them to starve to death. Some accidentally get caught in fishing nets, discarded rope, or 6-pack rings and cannot get to the surface to breathe.

Additionally, climate change has made it difficult for turtles to survive long enough to reproduce. From wildfires to shoreline erosion and severe weather, many turtles don’t stand a chance.

How can you help?

World Turtle Day is an opportunity to spread the word about how amazing turtles and tortoises are. It’s also a great time to reflect on how much different our world would be if we permanently lost these living dinosaurs.

To celebrate World Turtle Day

  • Be mindful of your use of plastics
  • Watch for turtles and tortoises crossing the road. If a tortoise is crossing, pick it up after safely pulling over (use two hands, one on each side of the shell between the head and tail), and place it on the side of the road it was headed toward.
  • Report cruelty to turtles and tortoises
  • Take action and contact legislators when it comes to protecting turtle habitat
  • Share this article and use the #WorldTurtleDay hashtag in your post

Happy World Turtle Day from all of us at Cedar Pet Clinic, and if your pet turtle or tortoise needs vet care, we’re here for you!

Image credit: Pexels

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