What Is World Turtle Day? May 23 To Encourage Knowledge Of & Respect For Turtles & Tortoises

Mary SchwalmAP Images

In 2001, the nonprofit American Tortoise Rescue (ATR) launched the first annual World Turtle Day. Since that time, ATR has utilized May 23 each year to honor turtles and tortoises worldwide. The organization specifically focuses on raising awareness about the negative impact that disappearing habitats have had on these gentle creatures.

World Turtle Day Contests and Events

For 2018, ATR launched a concentrated social media campaign to help call attention to World Turtle Day. Aside from using the hashtag #WorldTurtleDay, ATR also hosted a “shellfie” contest via Facebook. Turtle enthusiasts were encouraged to post a selfie, or “shellfie,” of themselves with a real or stuffed turtle.

Best "shellfie" pic with a tortoise
Featured image credit: Tortoise.com via Facebook

Events are held worldwide by local turtle rescue groups. There’s also a big push to wear green. According to Awareness Days, many people take this a step further by actually dressing like a turtle to honor the day and to call attention to the need for habitat improvements.

Social media is widely utilized on World Turtle Day to share tortoise and turtle facts. A major focus is placed on conservation-related information, but May 23 also provides a good opportunity for children to learn the basics about these marine reptiles. For example, did you know that there are currently at least 300 species of turtles? These creatures can trace their lineage back approximately 200 million years, which makes them one of the world’s oldest reptiles.

Turtle Conservation Facts

Queensland Greens took to Twitter on May 23, 2018, to point out one of the most critical turtle and tortoise conservation facts. These creatures become easily confused by plastic that enters their environment. In some cases, discarded plastic bags, straws and balloons end up harming or even killing turtles. Unfortunately, they cannot tell the difference between man-made plastic and food, so they often end up eating it. By steering clear of plastic, and by properly recycling or disposing of the plastic we do use, humans can eliminate this problem.

The World Wildlife Federation lists all sea turtles as vulnerable, and many species are actually endangered. This means that every type of turtle on the endangered species list faces the very serious risk of extinction in the near future. Unless a concentrated effort is put in place by individuals, organizations, and government officials, it’s highly likely that the destruction of their natural habitat will push these marine animals past the point of recovery.

How Can People Help?

Picture of a cute tortoise
Featured image credit: Tortoise.com via Facebook

Everyone can help tortoises and turtles by raising awareness of their plight. Participating in World Turtle Day is a good place to start. Rescue and conservation organizations also recommend contacting government officials and reducing or eliminating your personal usage of plastic. ATR has helped more than 4,000 injured or displaced turtles to date. The organization further recommends donating to your local turtle rescue, reporting turtle cruelty and never buying a turtle from a pet store. You can learn more about these important steps during World Turtle Day.