Washington is home to a small number of Western Pond Turtles, cute little creatures that have been on the state's endangered species list since 1992. (They failed to make the federal list in 1993.) The Department of Fish & Wildlife runs a "head start" program, whereby baby Western Pond Turtles spend a year or so at Woodland Park Zoo, "until they're bigger than a bullfrog's mouth," says DFW's Lori Salzer, who explains that bullfrogs will gladly eat them. "It's a harsh world," she says. Once big enough to return to the wild, they're outfitted with radio transmitters so DFW can keep track of them.
Which brings us to American Tortoise Rescue's "World Turtle Day", which apparently is May 23rd, and about which they sent out a press release this afternoon. The day's purpose is "to celebrate and protect turtles." Full release is after the jump.
American Tortoise Rescue Celebrates World Turtle Day May 23rd
California Sanctuary Sponsors Day To Honor One of the World's Oldest
Malibu, Calif. May 7, 2009 American Tortoise Rescue (www.tortoise.com),
a nonprofit organization established nearly 20 years ago for the
protection of all species of tortoise and turtle, is sponsoring World
Turtle Day on May 23rd, 2009. Featured in Chase's Book of Annual Events,
the day was created as an annual observance to help people celebrate and
protect turtles and tortoises and their disappearing habitats around the
Susan Tellem and Marshall Thompson, founders of ATR, advocate humane
treatment of all animals, especially reptiles. "World Turtle Day was
launched to increase respect for and knowledge about one of the world's
oldest creatures. These gentle animals have been around for about 200
million years, yet they are rapidly disappearing as a result of the live
food markets, habitat destruction and the cruel pet trade," says Tellem.
"We are seeing smaller and smaller turtles coming into the rescue which
means that older adults are disappearing from the wild, and the breeding
stock is drastically reduced. This is a very sad time for turtles and
tortoises throughout the world."
Tellem and Thompson note that experts predict the complete disappearance
of these creatures within the next 50 years. They recommend that adults
and children do a few important things that can help to save turtles and
tortoises for the next generation.
Never buy a turtle or tortoise as it increases demand from the wild.
Adopt from a rescue.
Don't take turtles or tortoises from the wild unless they are sick or
injured. If they are crossing a busy street, pick them up and send them
in the same direction they were going – if you try to make them go
back, they will turn right around again.
Write letters to legislators asking them to keep sensitive habitat
preserved or closed to off road vehicles.
Report cruelty or illegal sales of turtles and tortoises to your local
animal control department, Fish & Game or the U.S. Fish & Wildlife
Report any turtle or tortoise of any kind less than four inches being
sold at pet stores or Mercados. This practice is illegal everywhere in
"Illegal street vendors at the beach, at downtown Mercados and at Asian
live food markets throughout the U.S. are a major problem for turtles,
especially the 'red eared slider' water turtles. These have an almost
100% mortality rate due to ignorance about their care," Tellem says.
ATR currently houses about 100 injured, abandoned and lost turtles and
tortoises. These are too ill or abused for adoption. Since 1990, ATR has
placed more than 3,000 tortoises and turtles in caring homes. The
founders no longer do adoption, but the web site is loaded with
referrals for people who want to place or adopt turtles. The founders
have turned their attention to education.
"Our ultimate goal is to stop the illegal trade in turtles and tortoises
around the world. But our first job is here in the U.S. where pet stores
and reptile shows sell illegal hatchling tortoises of all species," says
Thompson. "Turtles are often an impulse buy, and people who are
unfamiliar with their proper care run a real risk of contracting
salmonella or causing deformities in the tortoises themselves. We are
here to help prevent that."
For answers to questions and other information visit American Tortoise
Rescue online at www.tortoise.com or by sending e-mail to