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World Turtle Day Facts

World Turtle Day is a day once a year to raise awareness about the protection of turtles and tortoises and their fast-disappearing natural habitats.

It was founded by the American Tortoise Rescue, who have been sponsoring world turtle day for over 20 years which falls on 23 May.

Turtles and tortoises are popular pets for many people to own, but unfortunately these pet owners aren’t always aware of the best way to care for their little friends. This leads to the mistreatment of these pets, and this is one of the reasons why World Turtle Day was established.

American Tortoise Rescue was one of the first tortoise rescue organizations to be operating within America and they have been doing so for 30 years – having started with 2 tortoises in 1990 and currently have over 100 permanent rescues including 2 of the original 4 tortoises they rescued.

They aim to educate through media outreach and have been able to curate a global event. They tackle issues such as live food markets where turtles are cruelly sold for slaughter, or the mistreatment of both turtles and tortoises when their owners are ill-equipped to take care of them.

World Turtle Day Overview

When did world turtle day start?

World Turtle Day started in 2000, and is celebrated in many ways. It has reached international proportions. It started as a means to bring awareness about rescue initiatives, and the proper care of pet turtles.

They aim to stop the spread of misinformation around the care of turtles and tortoises. They further raise funds to help injured turtles, and to help run their organization – as well as other local rescue organizations.

Who Sponsors It?

American Tortoise Rescue, an organization based in Malibu, California and started World Turtle Day in 2000. They have since rescued over 4000 turtles and tortoises, and help many pet owners and injured turtles and tortoises with their vet bills.

They currently have about 100 permanent residents in their facilities and use all the funding they receive towards the care of turtle and tortoises in their facilities.

American Tortoise Rescue was started by a husband and a wife team – Susan Tellem and Marshall Thompson. Their aim is to expand the education on the care around having pet turtles and stop the misinformation that has been spread over the internet. This is key to protecting our little friends.

How it’s celebrated?

Some people dress up as turtles, and some get actively involved in rescuing turtles and tortoises. It is a day to raise awareness about the health, endangered species and rehabilitation and rescue centres that help turtles and tortoises.

Schools are encouraged to get involved with resources that have been made available to them, in turn raising a more educated generation.

It is encouraged that you donate to an organization who helps turtles and tortoises, or even to volunteer your time. People can also get involved by educating others and spreading awareness about the proper care of turtles and tortoises.

Due to the events success, the populations of sulcatas, red eared sliders and other endangered tortoises and turtles have expanded and there are many more informed turtle and tortoise pet owners.

Turtle facts to celebrate World Turtle Day!

  • Many are confused about the difference between turtles and tortoises. Turtles are aquatic animals and have a flatter shape.  However not all turtles swim – such as the Box Turtle. Tortoises are land based and have a rounded shell. The one species of tortoise that is the exception to this is the pancake tortoise – which has a flatter shape in order to be able to squeeze between narrow rocks and can inflate themselves with air making it impossible for a predator to remove them.
  • They have exceptional eyesight and sense smell, and their shell has nerve endings in it that aid their sense of touch.
  • There is evidence of turtles being on the earth for more than 200 million years, and it has been proved that they evolved before other mammals, birds, and reptiles like crocodiles and snakes. Making them one of the oldest living animals.
  • Modern turtles are very similar to their pre-historic ancestors, the biggest difference being they had teeth and could not retract their heads.
  • Turtles and tortoises have a long-life span, in fact some can outlive their human companions. One of the oldest known tortoises was an Indian Ocean Giant Tortoise who was believed to live over 200 years.
  • The only continent where turtles don’t live is Antarctica.
  • Turtles can live anywhere that has a warm enough climate to allow their breeding cycles to continue.
  • Most turtles don’t live well in the cold, but one species – the Blanding turtle – has been noted to swim under the ice in the Great Lakes region.
  • Turtles and tortoises vary greatly in size depending on their species, some can be as little as 4 inches/10 cms all the way to 1500 lbs/680 kgs.
  • Europe only has 2 species of turtles and 3 species of tortoises; while North America is home to plentiful species.
  • The top of the turtle and tortoises shells is actually made up of bones and is the equivalent to a human skeleton.
  • The bony portions of the shell is covered in scutes/plates and they are equivalent to skin and add extra strength to the shell.
  • Some species of turtles are able to absorb oxygen through their skin and this allows them to stay underwater for extended periods and even aiding them in hibernation.  
  • Turtles can carry salmonella, and its vital to wash your hands thoroughly after handling them.
  • Female turtles can lay eggs without male turtles – but these eggs won’t hatch.
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Tuesday 14th of August 2018

Turtles are the best. I love turtles they’re so cute and amazing ? thank you for raising awareness about it.


Thursday 24th of May 2018

I would like to take part as a full time job in conserving these magnificent souls my rest life... please give a chance if you heard my voice



Wednesday 23rd of May 2018

On the occasion of #WorldTurtleDay My SandArt at Puri beach in Odisha with message #BeatPlasticPollution.


Tuesday 22nd of May 2018

This soooo awesome, I love turtles so much ???