By Jessica Ferrigno

Take a moment to appreciate World Turtle Day, which occurred earlier this month. This day, created by American Tortoise Rescue, is dedicated to the protection, education and respect for turtles and tortoises everywhere.

One win for turtles happened right here in Connecticut (where FoA is headquartered) when lawmakers passed legislation banning the commercial trade of Connecticut snapping turtles and the importation of red-eared slider turtles. More than 2 million snapping turtles are exported from the U.S. every year, mostly sent to China where they used for food and medicine. Imported red-eared slider turtles, often sold as pets, post a risk to native species, competing for space and habitat when they are let free by owners.

You can also help the world’s population of turtles and tortoises. Here’s five things you can do right now:

  1. Turtles are most commonly found on the roads during the months of May and June, because they are seeking the perfect place to lay their eggs. Keep an eye out for a stray turtle and avoid them on the roads while driving. You can even take the time to move the turtle if out of traffic if it’s safe to do so. If you choose to move the turtle yourself, make sure to pick it up by the sides of its shell only.
  2. Never bring a turtle or tortoise home with you. Even if you have the required permit to bring home native turtles, you should leave them in their environment. As Connecticut’s DEEP warns: “every turtle removed reduces the ability of the population to maintain itself.”
  3. Do not buy turtles or tortoises from pet shops. This increases the demand for more turtles from the wild and creates a cycle that threatens the species.
  4. Avoid nesting areas. Sea turtles, especially, experience disturbances from humans while nesting. Do not disturb or engage with a mother traveling up the beach by taking flash pictures or touching the turtles. You should also allow the hatchlings to walk to the water on their own and never take turtles home.
  5. Take care of turtles and tortoises by taking care of the Earth. Avoid chemical pollutants and waste. Sea animals can die when plastic gets wrapped around their necks or heads or they ingest your plastic waste Try alternatives to plastic bags, water bottles, and straws. You can purchase Friends of Animals reusable tote bags here.

Jessica Ferrigno, a journalism major at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, is a Friends of Animals summer intern.