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Malibu, California – American Tortoise Rescue (ATR), is a nonprofit organization for the protection of all species of turtles and tortoises. The organization is “shellebrating” its 22nd international World Turtle Day® on May 23. ATR created and launched WorldTurtleDay.org to increase respect for and knowledge about one of the world’s oldest creatures. Now observed around the globe, turtle and tortoise lovers show their appreciation of the special day by taking “shellfies” and “shellebrating” with events and shares on social media. Millions of turtle lovers in the U.S., Canada, the UK, Borneo, India, Australia, Greece and many other countries worldwide now observe the day with thousands of educational events, parties, fundraisers and more.
Susan Tellem, RN, BSN, co-founded the ATR sanctuary with her husband, Marshall Thompson, 32 years ago. Together, they have rescued and rehomed more than 4,000 turtles and tortoises and provided education to thousands. This year’s “Shellebrate” theme encourages a worldwide audience to see turtles as more than just rocks with legs. “These sentient beings are amazing creatures that outlasted dinosaurs and live 25, 50, 100 years or more,” Tellem said. They feel happiness and pain, show a true sense of humor, as well as affection. Turtles have personalities just like dogs and cats. “When they are allowed to live wild in a safe environment at the sanctuary, they search for food, do funny things like walking backwards or honking, and most important, have relationships with other turtles, sometimes procreating,” she added.
Sadly, these gentle animals survived 200 million years, yet they are rapidly disappearing as a result of smuggling, habitat destruction, climate change, the cruel pet trade, and live exotic food markets domestically and internationally. About 61 percent of turtles worldwide are threatened or already extinct. According to experts, turtles are the most threatened of the major groups of vertebrates, more so than birds, mammals, and fish. Tellem says this is why education is so important in every country globally so that turtles can be treasured, not smuggled, sold or eliminated. “Ideally, all turtles should live in the wild, but realistically this is not always possible. Too many are sold at pet stores, by street vendors, or used as prizes at carnivals and other events. Thankfully, there are many more rescues and sanctuaries now, as well as loving homes,” Tellem says. “These turtles can safely live out their long lives.”
Follow @WorldTurtleDay on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to find tips for fun things to do. You also have the opportunity to score cool turtle items during giveaways. “Even though we can’t meet in person,” Tellem says, “We can show our love of these beautiful creatures by enjoying experiences together through social media.”
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