May 23rd is World Turtle Day and is celebrated throughout the globe by people who appreciate turtles and their hard-shelled cousins.
Turtles, including terrapins and tortoises, are reptiles belonging to the Order Testudines and first appeared on earth about 200 million years ago. There are about 12 types of turtle, all of which are threatened in some way but no more so than the sea turtle. Sea turtles face numerous threats, mainly from fishing activities, poaching and destruction of their habitats, and rate among the most endangered species on the planet.
It’s quite extraordinary that these wonderful animals have managed to survive for millions of years, despite the constant threat from sea-faring predators, yet, as with an array of marine life, it is mankind’s blind destruction and selfishness that will result in their demise unless things change for the better, and soon.
Read on for Ten Tips for Safe Turtle Watching
One organisation that works hard to protect sea turtles and their habitats is American based Ocean Conservancy. They run a program called SEE Turtles which links people with sea turtle nesting and feeding sites in ways that directly support efforts to protect the turtles.
“Almost every type of sea turtle is endangered or threatened, and they need our help for survival,” said Vicki Cornish, vice president of marine wildlife conservation at Ocean Conservancy. “We can conserve sea turtles by traveling to places important to sea turtle survival where we learn about them and bolster the work local conservationists are doing. SEE Turtles puts travelers on the path to a vacation that is fun and positive for our environment.”
Travellers who visit the surrounding communities help by putting money into the local economy. The money generated goes towards providing conservation jobs for the very people who used to poach the animals; they now realise protecting turtles is the better alternative.
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Ten Tips for Safe Turtle Watching
For travellers thinking of taking a trip to see the turtles, Ocean Conservancy recommends the following ten tips to keep the animals safe while enjoying a vacation that will make a difference for the environment in beautiful ocean settings.
2. Clear beaches and water of litter, even if it’s not yours; turtles often confuse trash for food.
3. Nesting turtles like their beaches dark and quiet; avoid flash pictures, strong flashlights, fires, loud noises, vehicles and even light-colored clothing.
4. Hire local guides; they will best know where and how to spot turtles and prevent stress to them once found.
5. Do not feed turtles (or other wildlife). It can make them sick and more vulnerable to harm from people.
6. When boating, slow down when turtles are present and avoid anchoring in sensitive coral reefs and seagrass beds.
7. Choose to eat local seafood caught with turtle-friendly fishing gear preferably troll or hook and line. When you order fish at a local restaurant, ask your server how it was caught.
8. Maintain a respectful distance from turtles in the water and on land.
9. Donate to or volunteer with local and regional conservation organizations that conserve sea turtles and improve community living standards.
10. Reduce your carbon footprint year-round. Climate change affects turtles by altering their habitat and affecting their food sources.
For more information on Ocean Conservancy and their programs, visit their website.
Photo Credits: Ocean Conservancy
>>> More information on marine ecotourism.