World Turtle Day

Hello, newsjunkies! The headlines are driving me mad. How about a little festive late night detour of the pantheistic sort, with a dollop of environmental consciousness-raising on the side?

turtlesWelcome to World Turtle Day(/Night!):

The 12th World Turtle Day is an annual event sponsored by American Tortoise Rescue (ATR). The day is organized to bring attention to turtles and tortoises around the world that are facing numerous challenges to their survival.

Founders Susan Tellem and Marshall Thompson are the force behind World Turtle Day. “World Turtle Day was started 12 years ago to increase respect and knowledge for 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 exotic food industry, habitat destruction and the cruel pet trade,” says Tellem. “We are seeing smaller turtles coming into the rescue meaning that older adults are disappearing from the wild, and the breeding stock is drastically reduced. It is a very sad time for turtles and tortoises of the world.” Tellem added that many sea turtles lost their lives in 2010 thanks to BP’s uncontrolled oil spill off the coast of Louisiana. “It’s a tragic example of putting profits before preserving our environment.

Oh, y’all know nothing lights a fire under me like that nasty old phrase “putting profits before…”

Before people. Before nature. Before nurture.

Greenpeace has a fun blog piece up with turtle facts, called “Turtle Recall,” noting that:

It’s not rocket science knowing how best to start protecting turtles – you would protect their nesting beaches and the seas around them – yet growing pressure from human development means turtles are losing out across the world.

Some places where turtles were traditionally hunted for meat and their shells are switching toecotourism instead. Turtles, like whales, must be worth more alive than dead, right?

Turtles are fantastic ocean ambassadors, but also indicators of the many ways we humans are screwing those same oceans up. Protecting turtles means changing fishing methods, protecting areas are needed for feeding and breeding, and for us to stop treating the ocean as a rubbish tip.

Emphasis above in bold is mine. I just really dig that sentence! The turtle is a great motif for studying the constructive and destructive forces, the yin and the yang, in our modern human story.

I don’t have my reference books on symbolism with me right now, so I will just have to rely on this quick bit of convenience from wikipedia:

Turtles are frequently depicted in popular culture as easygoing, patient, and wise creatures. Due to their long lifespan, slow movement, sturdiness, and wrinkled appearance, they are an emblem of longevity and stability in many cultures around the world.[1][2] Turtles are regularly incorporated into human culture, with painters, photographers, poets, songwriters, and sculptors using them as subjects.[3] They have an important role in mythologies around the world,[4] and are often implicated in creation myths regarding the origin of the Earth.[5] Sea turtles are a charismatic megafauna and are used as symbols of the marine environment and environmentalism.[3]

Charismatic Megafauna! Ooh, what’s that:

Charismatic megafauna are large animal species with widespread popular appeal that environmental activists use to achieve environmentalist goals. Prominent examples include the lion,Bengal tigergray wolfPrzewalski’s horseCalifornia condorbald eaglegiant pandaharp sealEuropean Bison and humpback whale.[1]

Environmental activists and proponents of ecotourism seek to use the leverage provided by charismatic and well known species to achieve more subtle and far-reaching goals in species and biodiversity conservation.[citation needed] By directing public attention to the diminishing numbers of giant panda due to habitat loss, for example, conservation groups can raise support for the protection of the panda and for the entire ecosystem of which it is a part.[citation needed] (The giant panda is portrayed in the logo of the World Wide Fund for Nature.)

Hooray for the panda, hooray for the turtle, hooray for their ecosystems, hooray for the Earth. Win-win-win-win!

Anyhow, back to the Turtle day links. HLN of all places has a Squeeeee-worthy collection of youtubes starring turtles interacting with various food items. For example, here’s someone’s baby sulcata carrying a piece of lettuce:

If I hear another wingnut whine about Benghazi or bash unions, I think I will return to these videos!

Parade magazine has some neat photos, as well. My favorite:

These two speedsters raced toward the ocean. Lucky for us, it was a photo finish.

Beach buddies!

A Video that Inspires Hope,” via The Seattle Post Intelligencer:

Of course, I mentioned that destructive aspect. Here’s a piece that delves a bit into the details of the environmental threats facing turtles — World Turtle Day: A Look at Why Half of the Animal’s Species are Going Extinct.

From the link:

According to a 2011 report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), nearly half of more than the 300 species of turtles are threatened with extinction – a plight equaled only by primates.

Furthermore, the IUCN warns, the impact of losing them goes far beyond fewer pet options.

“Turtles and tortoises are major biodiversity components of the ecosystems they inhabit, often serving as keystone species from which other animals and plants benefit,” the report explains.

And while the reasons for their disappearance abound, according to the IUCN, all of them go back to the same source: humans.

There’s that dirty old bastard again: Profit before… people… before nature… before nurture.

Because of this, in order to make sure that the animals that have been around since the dinosaurs don’t go the way of the way of their former peers, the report states an intervention is needed.

Among the most significant movements of late focused on minimizing human interference in the life of turtles is that of different towns, including Pensacola, Fla., to keep artificial light exposure over the ocean at a minimum.

The reason this is so important, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, has to do with when the turtles hatch, which occurs at night. Because the small creatures orient themselves toward light, which traditionally came from the stars and moons, instead of making their way into the ocean, many of the newborn turtles are found scooting their way toward boardwalks or endlessly down the shore.

Oh dear goddess. The very well lit Kemah Boardwalk down here near Houston versus… Teeny Tiny Baby Turtle!

Just another reason I have a love-hate relationship with all these corporate-built “boardwalks” popping up more and more these days. They’re fun, but… at what cost.

It’s not all bleak and disaster capitalist, though! According to this press release from the World Conservation Society, via newswise, Slow and Steady, Turtles Gain Ground:

Last year, WCS unveiled a strategy to save the 25 most endangered turtles through conservation work at its Zoos and Aquarium, Zoological Health Program, and Global Conservation Programs.

At the Bronx Zoo and Prospect Park Zoo, more than a dozen turtle and tortoise species from around the world are being raised in “assurance colonies” to ensure they do not go extinct.

Highlights include:

• Five Chinese yellow-headed box turtles were recently hatched at the Bronx Zoo. Classified as critically endangered, fewer than 150 remain in the wild.

• The Bronx Zoo currently maintains an assurance colony of seven Roti Island snake-necked turtles, a species that was discovered in 1994 and subsequently hunted to near-extinction. Only a few scattered individuals remain in the wild.

• The Bronx Zoo currently maintains a population of eight Sulawesi forest turtles, a species only found on the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia. It was described as a new turtle species in 1995. In the late 90’s, two to three thousand turtles per year were collected by traffickers, with the result that by 1999, the population had collapsed. Fewer than 100 of the animals removed from the wild remain alive today.

Progress over profits! Or, at least not behind them.

I’ll close with this uplifting tidbit of human interest from a local newspaper in Massachusetts: Chelmsford girl’s mission is to protect area turtle.

Monnes 2.jpeg

Chelmsford — Increasing respect and knowledge for the world’s oldest creatures, World Turtle Day is coming to Chelmsford, thanks to one 11-year-old’s determination to bring awareness to the gentle animals facing extinction.

Parker Middle School fifth-grader Katarina Monnes will host a turtle awareness and children’s activities program at the Chelmsford Library on Thursday, May 23, from 3:30 to 5 p.m., as a part of her Girl Scouts Bronze Award project.

“They are interesting creatures. They have been around since before dinosaurs and have many unique characteristics. Did you know turtles never age? Some scientists are studying that. They can live to be over 100 years old, and only die from injury or disease, not old age,” said Monnes, who has raised funds for several national turtle foundations.

A little ecofeminist shero in the making, grin. Does my heart good!

The turtle hurtle

Monnes is now making it her mission to save local turtles, of which at least three of the six species are listed as threatened or endangered. In Chelmsford, there are box turtles, painted turtles, snapping turtles, bog turtles, red-eared slider turtles and wood turtles. The wood, box and bog turtles are endangered species.

“I hope people learn how to help, what we’re doing wrong to hurt the turtles, how we can stop that and more ways we can bring up the number of turtles,” said Monnes, who participated in a Junior Vet program at the Loggerhead Marine Rescue Center in Juno Beach, Fla. last year.

It’s as simple as that.

And wait, one more pic… one of my girls from the beginning of this year, doing their “terrapin terrific” best. Well, this is mostly just Lily bogarting and hamming it up for the camera, but you can see Rue’s little calico tush in the corner:


Alright. This is an Overnight Open Thread! Take care all and talk to you on the other side of tomorrow.

11 Comments on “World Turtle Day”

  1. More of the youtubes from the HLN link:

    Baby Eastern Box Turtle eating a raspberry….his name is Peanut 🙂

  2. RalphB says:

    Thank you. This post made my night!

  3. NW Luna says:

    The Ojibwa and some other First Nations people, refer to this part of the world [North America] as Turtle Island.

    The turtle info is fabulous, Mona! Helped to brighten my evening.

  4. ecocatwoman says:

    So cool, Mona. I didn’t know there was a designated World Turtle Day. I know I’ve shared these links before, but in case anyone is interested here they are again:

    Sea Turtle Conservancy – you can adopt a sea turtle & for turtles that have been tagged with GPS trackers, you can “follow” them:

    This blog, Barrier Island Girl, is a volunteer that patrols the beaches to check on sea turtle nests. The volunteers help protect the nests and report when the hatchlings emerge: She has great photos and posts about other native wildlife as well.

    Thanks again Mona. Turtles, especially sea turtles are near and dear to my heart. I was especially thrilled about young Katarina’s efforts. Young wildlife warriors are so encouraging to this old lady.

    One last thing – I have a print of Sherry Vintson’s green sea turtle hatchlings (she does beautiful manatee art work as well ). Here’s a picture of it as a puzzle at an everything turtle online store:

  5. Joyce L. Arnold says:

    As I mentioned to you, Mona, on FB, I didn’t know about the day. And I’m thinking the fairly big turtle in the backyard a few days ago was trying to tell me about it 🙂

    Thanks for the fun, and interesting, read.