On this day, the 23rd of May 2018, we celebrate this mystic creatures’ existence through awareness campaigns and showing respect to them through acknowledging the challenges they face. This day was founded by the American Tortoise Rescue (ATR), a non-profit organisation established in 1990 for the protection of all species of Tortoise and Turtle. It is now celebrating its 17th annual World Turtle Day.
It has been researched that Turtles have existed for more 200 million years ago. Projections by Biologists estimate that as a result of habitat loss or destruction, exploitation, plastic pollution, use as food and long net fishing, turtles will no longer exist in 50 years’ time. The major impact on Turtles and marine life at the moment is plastic pollution in the ocean. And many marine species that are being washed up on most global coastlines have, of recent, been linked to plastic pollution. Turtles like many other species, mistake floating plastic debris for feed, and ingest it.
What’s the difference between tortoises and turtles?
Most people are familiar with marine turtles, however fresh water turtles also occur. This sometimes leads to a confusion on how to tell the difference between land-based turtles and tortoises. The major differences between the two is the shell and feet. The Turtle has a streamlined almost flat like shell which aids it in swimming in strong currents. The Tortoise on the other hand has a dome-shaped like shell which is larger in proportion and heavier. Webbed feet or fin like legs are the leg features of a Turtle whilst Tortoises feature short stumpy legs with claws. Tortoises are basically land dwellers but they can and do swim.
What we can do:
- Never buy products or souvenirs made from tortoise or turtle products.
- If you come across a turtle on the shore, do not put it back into the sea. Refer to our website for guidelines on what to do.
- Reduce your use of plastics and single use items.
- Wild populations of tortoises do exist close to human populations. If you come across a tortoise crossing the road, pick it up without turning it over, and place it out of danger on the other side of the road in the direction it was going. Tortoises store water which is vital to carry them through the dry months and if you turn it over, it will urinate and lose fluids which can mean the difference between life and death in water scarce areas.
A simple way to make a difference is to stop using plastic straws. It is estimated that 500million straws are produced daily, used once and dumped. Many of these land up in the ocean. By the year 2050, it is anticipated that there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish – what a legacy to leave for our children. The time to change is now.
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