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 world. 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 Service.
· 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 the U.S.
“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 email@example.com.