World Turtle Day
Written by Editor on 23rd May 2022
In some of the stories we’ve heard about these creatures, they’re described as being slow and plodding, and they’re also occasionally obsessed with pizza, ninjitsu, and news reporters.
We are, of course, talking about Turtles!
World Turtle’s Day has been celebrated on May 23rd every year since 1990. This celebration aims to bring awareness and enlighten people on the importance of Turtles and Tortoises. Well, the first thing to know is that Turtles and Tortoises are not the same things, though this day is dedicated to celebrating and protecting both.
Although they both belong to the same family, turtles spend their time near or in the water while tortoises are primarily land creatures. Both turtles and tortoises are creatures who play tremendous roles in their respective ecosystems. Whether digging holes that are habitable for other creatures or cleaning up dead fish from beaches, there are more than enough reasons to ensure their protection.
There are many causes for the decline in species including climate change, habitat destruction, disease, and of course poaching for their meat and shells. There is also smuggling for the cruel pet trade and live exotic food markets domestically and internationally.
World Turtle Day was founded by the American Tortoise Rescue (ATR), a non-profit organization committed to the protection of all turtles and tortoises alike. In 2002, the rescue announced World Turtle Day to fall on May 23rd annually. Since then, today has been an opportunity for people to celebrate turtles as well as mobilize efforts in protecting them and their habitats globally. Susan Tellem and Marshall Thompson are the founders of the American Tortoise Rescue. They’re renowned advocates of the humane treatment of all animals, including reptiles. Since 1990, ATR has given a home to over 4,000 tortoises and turtles. They’ve been able to assist their local law enforcement in guarding natural habitat and have proven themselves as a useful source of information when handling sick, neglected and abandoned turtles.
How to celebrate World Turtle Day?
One of the best ways to celebrate this day is to do something for this species. Many studies say that 70% of all turtle species are facing extinction due to global warming. Marine Conservation Society Seychelles (MCSS), Nature Seychelles, and Seychelles island foundation (SIF), always welcome a helping hand from tourists and public members for volunteering and organising a beach clean up events. This day is a good day to donate money or time to turtle preservation or other such rescue projects and organisations. People can also raise awareness regarding the plight of turtles all over the world by using the hashtag #WorldTurtleDay on various social media platforms. In many countries including Seychelles, it is illegal to own sea turtles and are only allowed to have tortoises under the protection act of Census. Regardless of the illegality many still partake in the trading of their meat. That is why it is important to report any of these activities if witnessed.
Things to keep in mind during nesting season – Please don’t walk down the beach with flashlights. If you live or are staying ocean-side, keep the lights off or the shades drawn. When baby sea turtles hatch at night, they follow the brightest light source (the moon) out to the ocean. If there are brighter, artificial lights, the babies will follow these instead and go the wrong way. Do not shine a flashlight in a sea turtle’s face, or use flash photography: it can scare the females and cause them to stop laying their eggs. If you happen upon a turtle making her nest, remain a safe distance away and be a stealthy voyeur. Please don’t spook the turtles. Don’t touch the sea turtle eggs if you find a nest. Don’t disturb the turtle tracks, because it can be useful information to researchers.
The hawksbill turtle is critically endangered. This species is known to live in the western Indian Ocean. Seychelles’ Cousin Island Special Reserve is the largest breeding site for these animals. It also has a long-running monitoring program that dates back to 1971. Both international and local laws protect these animals from persecution and harm.