May 23: World Turtle Day – Celebrating these Magnificent Creatures

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World Tortoise Day

World Turtle Day is celebrated on May 23rd each year, and was established by the American Tortoise Rescue in 2000. Tortoises and turtles are vulnerable animals around the world due to a variety of threats including being hunted for food, having their habitats polluted, and being killed on roads, yet they are often overlooked in conservation efforts. World Turtle Day serves to raise awareness of these animals and the problems they face.

Turtles are often thought of as slow, lumbering creatures that take their time to get anywhere. They are seen as a symbol for patience and persistence.

In fact, the world turtle stands for “slow but steady.” But these magnificent creatures have another side that is not always seen- they can move quickly if needed!

The most notable example of this is when turtles flip over on their backs and use their powerful legs to propel themselves out of harm’s way when they feel threatened by a predator. The speed at which tortoises can move in this position has been recorded at up to six miles per hour (almost 10 km/hr)!

World Turtle Day

History Of World Turtle Day

World Turtle Day began in the year 2000 by Marshall Thompson and Susan Tellem of the American Tortoise Rescue in Malibu, California. Being advocates of tortoise and turtle conservation, they wanted to introduce an awareness and appreciation for these animals through a public education system.

Originally known as Tortoise Awareness Day, they changed it to World Turtle Day after recognizing that many other countries had similar celebrations.

The first World Turtle Day was celebrated in 2000 with a Galapagos Tortoise rescue party at the Santa Monica Pier.

What Happens On World Turtle Day?

A variety of events are held each year for World Turtle Day. Public awareness is one of the priorities, so events such as parades have been held in cities such as New York City and Philadelphia to celebrate World Turtle Day.

Schools and zoos also hold educational events to educate the public about tortoises and turtles, their conservation, and the threats they face. Other events include discussions about turtle conservation by celebrity ambassadors, walkathons, and other fundraising activities.

There are also a variety of special events and celebrations held each year for World Turtle Day. 

World Turtle Day is also celebrated in countries like the United Kingdom, Australia, Borneo, South Africa, Pakistan, and many others.

How to Take Part in World Turtle Day

– Encourage public awareness about not buying turtles, and promoting safe means of adopting turtles in need. 

– Educating others on how to help tortoises and turtles who may be having trouble crossing the road

– Report illegal activity of turtle selling such as at fairs or carnivals. Federal law prohibits any turtle that is under four inches in length from being given away as prizes. 

Fun Facts About Turtle Day

– American Tortoise Rescue has over 100 turtle and tortoise residents at their rescue, and they work with local wildlife foundations to help with adopting them out.

– Turtles and tortoises have exceptionally long lifespans, and often can outlive their human companions.

– In Malibu, scuba divers participate in World Turtle Day, catching wild turtles and showing them to children, before releasing them back into their habitats. 

– The earliest turtles date back to the time of dinosaurs – over 200 million years ago!

– Turtle shells are made up of over 50 bones, including their spine and rib cage.

What is the difference between a turtle and tortoise?

A tortoise is a turtle but a turtle is not a tortoise. Testudines and Chelonia both referring to reptiles with a body enclosed inside of a hard shell.

Turtles are found in freshwater habitats, while tortoises live on land. Turtle shells can be easily distinguished from their lighter colored topside (which often has markings) to their dark brown or black underside.

Turtles are a type of species of animal called Chelonians and they live in both water and on land. Some turtles spend enough time out of the water that they do not belong to strict turtle species, but all tortoises live on dry land for their entire lifetime.

So, Americans are not wrong when they refer to a tortoise as a turtle.

Final Thoughts

May 23 is World Turtle Day, and participating in this event is an excellent way to learn more about tortoises, turtles, and their conservation. By educating yourself about how you can help these animals, you can also encourage others to participate in protecting them from extinction. 

Important Information

World Turtle Day

Celebrating these magnificent creatures

Official Website

World Turtle Day


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