World Turtle Day

May 17, 2014 | 2014 Articles, Pets, Sandra Murphy

by Sandra Murphy

Who would expect a turtle to change the course of a marriage? Susan M. Tellem, RN in Malibu, California, gifted her husband with two tortoises for his birthday. She found there was no national tortoise rescue so she and husband, Marshall, started one and have rescued over 3,000 turtles and tortoises since then.

“Turtles are reptiles. They’re not always as cute and cozy as a kitten or puppy,” Susan said in a telephone interview. “We started World Turtle Day fourteen years ago to educate people about turtles, poaching, habitat loss and care.” turtle

Federal law makes it illegal to sell or give away a turtle less than four inches in size (possible salmonella). Carnivals or raffles still offer turtles as prizes and should be reported to prevent a possible outbreak. Children are particularly susceptible to salmonella and generally, they are the ones to handle the undersized turtles.

Popcorn is a large turtle, rescued years ago. He loves to dance when the water hose is turned on. He had lived in an apartment in Chicago and was deformed when rescue got him. After fifteen years, his shell is nearly back to normal. Be sure to check out Popcorn’s dance video:

Lola (a boy) is a red foot tortoise who was painted green. Since turtles breathe through their shells, no paint remover could be used to get rid of the paint. Five years later, it’s almost worn off and Lola has a girlfriend. While a number of turtles are looking for a forever home, Popcorn and Lola will remain with the rescue. turtle

Some tips to follow include:
• Never pet the top of the head—if the turtle retreats to his shell quickly, little fingers can get pinched.
• Never keep a turtle in a tank. Create an outdoor habitat, safe from dogs, raccoons and the lawn mower.
• If you see a turtle crossing a road, help him to the other side but don’t try to return him where he came from. Turtles can be stubborn and he will head right back into traffic.
• If you’ve had a pet turtle and think he’d be better off in the wild, do not release him. Instead take him to a rescue. Turtles who lived in a home are ill-equipped to live outdoors. They can also transit bacteria to turtles in the wild.
• Never buy a turtle. Contact rescue and save a life.

For more information, go to

Sea turtles lay eggs on the beach which puts the eggs in danger from poachers, predators like feral pigs and even bad weather. Each year, people help protect the nests and usher the baby turtles to the sea when they hatch. “Although the turtles will return to the same beach to lay eggs of their own, the hatchlings seen this year won’t be back for twenty years or more,” says Wallace “J” Nichols, researcher, author and clean water/marine life advocate. “A hatchling is about the size of the palm of your hand but a mature turtle can weigh over 200 hundred pounds.” Sea turtles can be found on both coasts of the US, from the Carolinas south and in Central America. Nesting season is during warm weather. turtle

Sea turtles view most anything as food. Plastics blown into the water, debris from boats and deliberate litter can be eaten. Indigestible, these items take up space in the turtle’s stomach and because he can’t fill up, the turtle is malnourished. The turtle won’t mature as fast and then take longer to reproduce, further endangering the species.

What can you do to help? Support rescue, never buy, keep beaches and waterways clean, educate others, especially children about turtles and always, donate time and money to causes you believe in. Popcorn and Lola thank you. Now watch the video and dance with a turtle!

Check out more animal rescue & pet related articles, including more Cat House columns, in our Pet Perspective section.

Sandra Murphy lives in the shadow of the arch, in the land of blues, booze and shoes—St Louis, Missouri. While writing magazine articles to support her mystery book habit, she secretly polishes two mystery books of her own, hoping, someday, they will see the light of Barnes and Noble. You can also find several of Sandra’s short stories on UnTreed Reads including her new one Bananas Foster.

1 Comment

  1. Very informative article! Oh wow, I did not know that they give little turtles away as prizes and that they eat anything that floats in the water! Thank you!


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