World Turtle Day

World Turtle Day is a holiday observed on May 23rd each year. The purpose of this holiday is to celebrate these remarkable reptiles and to raise awareness about the American Tortoise Rescue—a non-profit organization whose mission is to protect turtles and tortoises all around the world. On this unofficial holiday, people can choose to donate money to this organization, volunteer for other organizations that promote turtle conservation and protection, or simply spend the day enjoying cute turtle pictures on the internet. After all, there’s no right or wrong way to celebrate this holiday as long as turtles are the main focus of your efforts.

The History of World Turtle Day

World Turtle Day was founded in 1990 by the American Tortoise Rescue—a non-profit organization that sponsors this holiday annually. It was created so people could not only celebrate turtles but also join in the effort to protect turtles and tortoises all over the world. Since the day it was founded, the American Tortoise Rescue has placed over three thousand turtles and tortoises into caring homes.

About Turtles and Their Habitat

Turtles are reptiles that belong to the order Testudines. They are characterized by their cartilaginous shell that develops from their ribs and acts as a shield for the animal. They are commonly cold-blooded animals—which means that their internal temperature fluctuates according to the temperature of the environment. However, some turtles have a higher temperature than their ambient environment due to their high metabolic rate—for instance, this is the case with sea turtles.

Some of the earliest known turtles lived approximately 215 million years ago. This makes turtles one of the oldest groups of reptiles—even older than crocodiles and snakes. Today, there are over 320 known species of turtles, and many of them are endangered. Scientists classify turtles as amniotes, just as they do mammals, reptiles, and birds. Like their fellow amniotes, turtles breathe air and do not lay their eggs underwater—although many different turtle species live very close to large bodies of water.

What turtles eat depends largely upon the environment in which they live. Many adult land turtles eat plants, worms, and small insects. Some freshwater turtles eat fish and other aquatic creatures. Some sea turtles often feed on soft-bodied marine animals such as sponges and jellyfish. Still, other sea turtles may live off shellfish or algae.

Some Turtles on the Brink of Extinction

Almost 70% of the turtles that are alive today are endangered. This includes seven species of sea turtles (which include the Hawksbill, Loggerhead, Green, and Leatherback Sea Turtles; Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtles; among others). It also includes land turtles such as the Radiated Tortoise, the Saw-jawed Terrapin, the Ploughshare Tortoise, the Philippine Pond Turtle, the Flattened Musk Turtle, the Yellow-headed Box Turtle, McCord’s Box Turtle, Indochinese Box Turtle, Yellow Mud Turtle, Western Chicken Turtle, and Blanding’s Turtle.

Facts About Turtles

  • The upper shell of a turtle is called a carapace.
  • The lower shell of a turtle is called a plastron.
  • Sea turtles have special glands that remove salt from their drinking water.
  • Green Sea Turtles can hold their breath for up to 5 hours.
  • The Leatherback Sea Turtle can weigh over 2,000 pounds.
  • Leatherback Sea Turtles can travel over 10,000 miles a year.
  • Not all turtle species can hide their heads in their shells.
  • Turtles live mainly in water.
  • Tortoises live mainly on land.
  • Terrapins live both on land and in water.
  • Most turtles are omnivores.

Celebrating World Turtle Day

The best way to celebrate World Turtle Day is to do something for turtles themselves. After all, 70% of all turtle species are facing extinction due to global warming and other human activities. So this day is a good day to donate your money or time to your favorite turtle preservation or rescue organization. It’s also a good day to raise attention about the plight of turtles all over the world by using the hashtag #WorldTurtleDay on social media.

If you’re looking for a less serious way to celebrate this holiday, then you can do all kinds of fun turtle-related activities. You can have a turtle-themed party with a turtle-shaped cake and games such as pin the tail on the turtle. You can also paint pictures of turtles, draw turtles, or hunt down cute turtle pictures on the internet. It all depends on you.

When is it?
This year (2024)
May 23 Thursday
Next year (2025)
May 23 Friday
Last year (2023)
May 23 Tuesday