World Turtle Day, on the 23rd of May, acknowledges our oldest friend of the deep. The more we understand about these remarkable reptiles, the better we’ll know how to keep them safe! Like all of the aquatic creatures, turtles play a vital role in balancing the well-being of the ocean’s ecosystem. Here are a few lesser-known facts about turtles:
- Turtles belong to one of the oldest reptile groups in the world, having existed for around 215 million years; surpassing snakes, alligators and crocodiles.
- There are over 300 known species of turtles alive today.
- Some turtles are carnivorous, others are herbivorous and some are omnivorous. Many baby turtles start life as carnivores but grow to eat more plants as they mature.
- Turtles are ‘amniotes’: they breathe air and lay their eggs on land, although many species live in or around water.
- Sea turtles have special glands which help remove salt from the water they drink.
- People have a misconception that turtles make easy pets… they don’t. Turtles have a host of special needs, they often grow to an impractical size and age, they require special indoor housing, and they also have complicated dietary requirements and habits.
A sad fact about these fascinating creatures is that many of their species are endangered. The good news is that you can help! Here are some things you can do to save the turtles:
- Reduce your rubbish! An estimated eight million metric tons of plastic ends up in our oceans annually. Sea creatures including turtles, mistake rubbish and plastic for food, often harming or even killing them. By limiting your rubbish by recycling and using material bags instead of plastic, you can help improve the ocean and the turtles’ home and food supply.
- If you see rubbish, pick it up! All water sources lead back to the ocean, so a piece of plastic can find its way from your hand, onto the street, into a drain, into a river and then into the ocean, before you can say “litter-bug”.
- The No Straw Movement is just one example of a global initiative that you can become part of. The goal is to ban all single-use plastic straws, and use bamboo or metal re-usable straws instead. Every bit counts!
- If you’re ever lucky enough to encounter a turtle on the beach, or any of her eggs, remember to keep your distance. If she becomes stressed, she may not lay the eggs at all.
- Volunteer and / or Donate!
Do you know any more ways to save our oceans and our precious turtles?