Facts about animals

When is World Turtle Day & Why Do We Celebrate?

Karina Cruz Fernández
By Karina Cruz Fernández. May 20, 2024
When is World Turtle Day & Why Do We Celebrate?

Turtles, also known as testudines, are reptiles instantly recognizable by their unique protective shells. Over 350 species roam the Earth, making them a diverse and widespread group. These incredible creatures can be found on most continents (excluding Antarctica), inhabiting a variety of environments – both land and water. Despite their successful adaptation to various habitats, turtles and tortoises worldwide face serious threats. World Turtle Day serves as a crucial reminder of these challenges and aims to raise awareness about the importance of turtle conservation.

This article by thedailyECO unpacks the purpose and importance of World Turtle Day and how you can contribute to turtle conservation efforts.

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  1. When is World Turtle Day?
  2. Why is World Turtle Day celebrated?
  3. How to celebrate World Turtle Day
  4. Why are turtles in danger of extinction?
  5. Other ways to help turtles every day

When is World Turtle Day?

World Turtle Day is celebrated annually on May 23rd. It was established in 2000 and has been observed on this date ever since to raise awareness about the importance of turtle conservation.

World Turtle Day was established by the American Tortoise Rescue (ATR), a non-profit organization founded in 1990 for the protection of all species of tortoises and turtles.

This day encompasses and celebrates both turtles and tortoises.

When is World Turtle Day & Why Do We Celebrate? - When is World Turtle Day?

Why is World Turtle Day celebrated?

World Turtle Day is celebrated to raise awareness about the importance of turtle and tortoise conservation. Turtles and tortoises face a variety of threats, including habitat loss, illegal wildlife trade, accidental bycatch in fishing gear, and the pet trade. World Turtle Day helps bring attention to these issues and encourages action to protect these vulnerable creatures.

The day serves as a platform to showcase ongoing conservation efforts and inspire people to get involved. World Turtle Day is an opportunity to educate the public about the diversity of turtles and tortoises, their unique biology and behavior, and the importance of protecting them. This can inspire people to become advocates for these amazing creatures.

Turtles and tortoises play a crucial role in maintaining balanced ecosystems by acting as both herbivores, omnivores, and scavengers. They graze on plants, helping to control plant populations and prevent overgrowth. Some species are also beneficial for seed dispersal, carrying seeds within their digestive systems to new areas. As scavengers, they contribute to decomposition, removing carrion and other organic matter that would otherwise decompose slowly.

How to celebrate World Turtle Day

Here are some ways you can celebrate World Turtle Day (May 23rd) and contribute to turtle and tortoise conservation:

  • Donate: consider donating to organizations dedicated to turtle and tortoise conservation. Some well-known options include the American Tortoise Rescue (ATR), the Sea Turtle Conservancy, and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

  • Volunteer: look for volunteer opportunities at local turtle sanctuaries, wildlife rehabilitation centers, or conservation projects. You could assist with animal care, habitat restoration, or educational programs.

  • Adopt (Responsibly): If you're considering adopting a turtle, ensure you can provide proper care for its entire lifespan, which can be quite long for some species. Research reputable breeders or rescue organizations and choose a species that suits your lifestyle.

  • Raise Awareness: share information about World Turtle Day and the importance of turtle conservation on social media. Furthermore, talk to friends, family, and colleagues about the threats turtles and tortoises face and the actions we can take to protect them.

  • Dressing up: wearing turtle costumes or green clothing is a fun way to raise awareness and spark conversations about turtles and their conservation needs.

  • Sustainable practices: avoid purchasing products derived from turtles or tortoises, such as certain sea turtle jewelry or leather goods made from turtle skin. Choose sustainable seafood options that avoid bycatch of sea turtles.

  • Turtle day lesson plans and crafts: American Tortoise Rescue and other non-profit organizations provide educational resources that can be used in schools to teach children about turtles in a fun and interactive way.

World Turtle Day is a great reminder to appreciate turtles. Learn more about a turtle's surprising mouthparts, and how they manage to eat without teeth, in our next article.

When is World Turtle Day & Why Do We Celebrate? - How to celebrate World Turtle Day

Why are turtles in danger of extinction?

Over 50% of the world's turtle species face extinction threats due to various human activities and environmental changes.

  • Habitat destruction is a major threat. Expansion of agriculture, urbanization, and infrastructure development disrupt and destroy vital turtle habitats like wetlands, rainforests, and coastal areas.

  • Turtle poaching remains a significant concern. Turtles are targeted for their meat and their shells, which are used in some cultures or sold illegally. This unsustainable hunting pressures wild populations.

  • Water pollution is a particular threat to sea turtles. Plastic pollution in oceans can be mistaken for food, leading to ingestion and potential harm. Additionally, entanglement in abandoned fishing gear poses a significant danger.

  • Climate change introduces further challenges. Shifts in temperature patterns and disruptions to nesting grounds can negatively impact egg and hatchling survival. Climate change may also disrupt migratory patterns of some species.

Both turtles and tortoises, facing extinction threats due to various human activities and environmental changes, require our attention and conservation efforts.

Other ways to help turtles every day

While raising awareness on World Turtle Day is crucial, there are many everyday actions we can take throughout the year to truly help turtles.

  • Plastic pollution is a major threat to turtles in marine environments. Reduce your reliance on single-use plastics and properly dispose of any plastic waste.

  • Water conservation efforts benefit not only humans but also aquatic turtles. Implement water-saving practices at home and promote water conservation awareness within your community.

  • Respect nesting beaches. If you visit beaches where turtles nest, respect designated nesting areas and avoid disturbing nesting females or hatchlings. Fill in any holes you dig on the beach before leaving.

  • Choose seafood options that are caught using methods that minimize bycatch of sea turtles. Look for certifications like the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) label.

  • Trash in waterways can entangle and harm turtles. Always dispose of trash properly and participate in community clean-up events near beaches, rivers, and parks.

Learn more about indicator species, creatures like turtles that help us monitor the health of our planet, in our follow-up piece.

If you want to read similar articles to When is World Turtle Day & Why Do We Celebrate?, we recommend you visit our Facts about animals category.

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When is World Turtle Day & Why Do We Celebrate?