World Turtle Day: Ways To Celebrate, Interesting Facts About The Reptiles

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Turtle
Pictured: Representative image of a pet turtle.

World Turtle Day, observed May 23 each year, celebrates these important reptiles that play an important role in ecosystems but have been facing various threats.

World Turtle Day celebrates both turtles and tortoises, and highlights the need to protect them as well as their threatened habitats all over the world.

It was first observed in 2002 by the American Tortoise Rescue (ATR), and on this day, people come together to learn more about turtles and tortoises, and find out how they can help protect them as many of them are already endangered.

For instance, people can take the time to volunteer to a turtle rescue center or perhaps even consider adopting one from a shelter.

The ATR stresses the importance of "never" buying turtles or tortoises from pet shops as this can increase the demand from the wild, and to "never remove" them from the wild unless they're injured or sick.

Others may simply make a donation to turtle conservation and rescue centers, or even take the time to write to their legislators to take action to protect turtles and their habitats. While those who have kids may even want to download the turtle-themed coloring pages provided by the ATR for some turtle-themed fun.

Another important way to celebrate World Turtle Day would be to get to know the creatures a little better. To mark the occasion, let's have a look at some interesting turtle/tortoise facts. (Courtesy: National Today, The Smithsonian Institution, Britannica, and the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance.

  • Turtles and tortoises are different. While most turtles are semi-aquatic, tortoises live on land.
  • All tortoises are turtles as they belong to the order Testudines or Chelonia, but "not all turtles are tortoises."
  • Some turtles also tend to be more omnivorous, while tortoises are "generally" vegetarians.
  • Turtles and tortoises don't have ears like people do. Instead, they can feel changes in water pressure and vibrations.
  • They also have excellent senses of smell and good eyesight. They're even said to be drawn to bright colors.
  • Some turtles can put their head, legs or feet inside their shells. However, they cannot crawl out of it, as their shells is attached to their rib cage and spines.
  • Just like snakes, turtles also shed as they grow bigger.
  • Turtles are a very old group of reptiles, dating back to about 220 million years.
  • There are over 300 turtle species, many of which are already endangered.
  • In fact, turtles are said to be among the most endangered vertebrates. Threats such as habitat destruction, massive harvesting and illegal collection have been "decimating" the turtle populations.


Turtle

Photo: Sandy Karreman/Pixabay

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