World Turtle Day
annually on May 23rd (since 2000)
American Tortoise Rescue in 2000
Created and sponsored by American Tortoise Rescue, an organization that works to protect turtles and tortoises, World Turtle Day brings attention to turtles and tortoises so that both knowledge of and respect for them may be increased. The day aims to encourage humans to take action to help turtles and tortoises survive by protecting their habitats and stopping their illegal trade and sale. Turtles and tortoises face threats on many fronts: smuggling, cruel pet trade, the exotic food industry, destruction of their habitats, water contamination, and global warming.
There are approximately 330 species of turtles and tortoises. Turtles are aquatic or semi-aquatic, while tortoises live on land. Both turtles and tortoises live long lives, although tortoises can live much longer, reaching up to 200 years. Turtles and tortoises have shells that are covered by scutes, which are hard scales. Turtles shed their scutes, but tortoises do not. Both turtles and tortoises brumate in the fall or winter, which is similar to hibernation. They become slow, they cool down, and they stop eating, in an effort to protect themselves from cold weather.
How to Observe World Turtle Day
There are many ways to celebrate the day:
- Join, support, or donate to the Turtle and Tortoise Preservation Group or American Tortoise Rescue.
- Pick up turtles you find on highways or on busy streets and place them on the far side of the road, facing the direction they were headed.
- Don't buy turtles or tortoises from pet shops, and report cruelty or illegal sale of turtles, such as the selling of turtles that are smaller than four inches in length.
- Leave turtles and tortoises in the wild unless they are sick or injured.
- Urge legislators to preserve turtle and tortoise habitats.
- Have a party for the day, either at home, work, or in a public space.
- Dress up as a turtle.
- Visit the day's Facebook page.