American Tortoise Rescue (ATR), a nonprofit organization established in 1990 for the protection of all species of tortoise and turtle, is celebrating its 18th annual World Turtle Day® on May 23, 2018. The day was created by ATR to celebrate and protect turtles and tortoises and their disappearing habitats around the world. Now celebrated around the globe, turtle and tortoise lovers are taking “shellfies” and holding “shellebrations” in the U.S., Canada, Pakistan, Borneo, India, Australia, the UK, Greece and many other countries.
Common Turtle Myths
Myth 1: Turtles are easy to care for – just buy a nice tank.
False: Turtles are wild animals. They have territories that can be many miles wide. Putting them in a tank is cruel. Think of it this way: it’s like spending the rest of our lives in the bathtub. A turtle needs a large habitat or a pond to approximate nature, not a tank.
Myth 2: Turtles usually live about five years.
False. In captivity, a well-cared for turtle can live 25, 50 or more years. These animals have been on the earth for 200 million years, longer than dinosaurs. They might have to be in your will and maybe even your children’s will.
False! The problem with turtles is because of their very slow metabolism, they do not show signs that they are sick until the illness is advanced. The signs and symptoms you should be very aware of include: Closed and swollen eyes, loss of appetite, sitting in one place looking miserable, daily pattern changes and runny nose and eyes. If any of these are observed, see a vet immediately.
Myth 4: It is best to buy turtles and tortoises at a pet store.
Absolutely false. Pet stores should sell pet supplies not pets. Pet stores might buy their turtles from cruel trappers. About 90 percent die in transit. Get your turtle the same place as a dog or cat. Go to the nearest animal shelter or find a reptile or turtle rescue online.
Myth 5: Turtles hide under plants to hibernate.
Some do, like box turtles. Some hibernate under water like red eared sliders and cooters. Each species has its own habits. Whichever it is, your turtle should be healthy and heavy before it is allowed to go to sleep for the winter.
Myth 6: Turtles hiss like snakes when they are mad.
While it is true that the sound a turtle makes sounds like it is hissing, it is not. When a turtle is afraid or picked up quickly, it pulls its head in really quickly and this action forces the air out. It is biological, not deliberate.
Myth 7: Turtles can eat just about anything
False. Turtles are carnivores that must eat live food like snails, fish and worms. You can also feed them prepared turtle food from a pet store. They should not be fed hot dogs, raw hamburger and cat food – stuff that they would not normally find in the wild. Water turtles can only eat under water.
Myth 8: Tiny water turtles stay that size.
False! Those small green water turtles that you see in plastic containers with fake palm trees are hatchlings that will grow up to be anywhere from six to 12 inches. It is illegal to buy or sell them in the US while they are under four inches.
Myth 9: Washing a turtle gets rid of salmonella.
False. Assume that every turtle no matter how clean is carrying salmonella. It is important to wash your hands after handling the turtle or its water, keep turtle things away from the kitchen and keep turtles out of homes where children under six live.
Myth 10: Turtles can live happily with artificial light.
False. Turtles need real sunlight to be able to grow normally and to have strong bones. Turtles deprived of sun get a condition known as metabolic bone disease where their bones disintegrate. A basking turtle in the sun is a happy and healthy turtle.
How to celebrate Turtle Day
Contact the American Tortoise Rescue and find out what you can do in your area to help promote the protection of turtles. If there’s no activities in your area, work with them to find out what you can do to coordinate with local aquariums, pet stores, and nature groups to focus on the species of this reptile that live in your area.
They’re amazing creatures, with certain varieties making great pets and others helping to preserve the eco-system in the waters they live in. Of course, if you live where snapping turtles haunt the waters, it’s probably a good idea that people know how to avoid them, where to find them, and how not to lose a toe! Happy Turtle Day!