World Turtle Day is every year on May 23, sponsored by the American Tortoise Rescue since 2000, started with the incredible desire to teach people about, and to bring attention to, one of the oldest living creatures on earth. It’s a day to encourage human action to help these creatures to survive and thrive with the hope that vigilance will carry on in our everyday lives. With assistance from people like you and organizations like the ATR, all species of tortoise and turtle can be protected, to have a fighting chance to see a brighter future.

“We launched World Turtle Day to increase respect and knowledge for the world’s oldest creatures,” said Susan Tellem, a founder of the American Tortoise Rescue. “These gentle animals have been around for 200 million years, yet they are rapidly disappearing as a result of smuggling, the exotic food industry, habitat destruction, global warming and the cruel pet trade.”

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While turtles and tortoises are some of the most amazing animals on the planet, many of their species are endangered. Armed with knowledge and passion for these gentle animals, we can come together to preserve turtle and tortoise species throughout the world. World Turtle Day is just one day, but the things you can do to help save turtles and tortoises from disappearing can be done any day!

Leave Wild Turtles in the Wild

Wild turtles are not pets. They are exactly that — wild. Removing turtles or tortoises from the wild can impact their local population, as very few babies hatch and make it to adulthood. However, this does not apply if they are sick or injured. Once, when I was a kid, my mom rescued a severely injured water turtle from the riverbank, nursed it back to health, then released it back into the wild. If you come across an injured turtle or tortoise, carefully take them to or call your local wildlife department, humane society, or even animal control.

Why Did the Turtle Cross the Road

Sometimes, turtles find themselves in dangerous situations like crossing busy roads or somehow getting turned upside-down. Humans can help them out of these situations by picking them up and walking them to the side of the road they are heading toward or gently turn back over in a safe place to get them on their feet again. In either case, be aware of long-tailed snapping turtles and turtles too large for you to pick-up. Use a long stick or other object to nudge them out of harm’s way.

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Don’t Set Domesticated Turtles Free

You may think you are doing a pet turtle or tortoise a favor by releasing them into the wild to be free, but you’re not. They are not adapted to survive in a wild environment and could die in extreme hot or cold weather. Also, a released pet turtle might not be native to the area and begin to interbreed with local wild turtles possibly causing environmental disruptions.

Help Clean Up the Environment

We need to work together for an all-around cleaner world, also remembering the wild creatures that live in the world with us. Turtles can use our help keeping beaches, other water sources, and other habitat areas clean by always throwing away your trash and kindly picking up garbage left by others.

Support Efforts to Combat the Asian Turtle Crisis

Asian wild turtle populations have diminished due to over-collection for use in restaurants and to sell on live animal markets. To meet Asian demand, these dealers have turned to endangered turtle populations elsewhere in the world such as in the United States and Europe.

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More Things You Can Do …

  • Report animal cruelty or the sale of any turtle or tortoise of any kind less than four inches. It’s illegal to buy and sell in the U.S.
  • Don’t buy real tortoiseshell such as trinket boxes, hair accessories, brushes, jewelry, or ornaments.
  • Support local legislation protecting turtles from being taken from the wild to be sold in the pet trade, as food, or exported to other countries.

Image source: Craig ONeal/Flickr