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5 Ways to Protect Turtles for World Turtle Day

23rd of May is known by animal lovers as World Turtle Day and was founded by 'American Tortoise Rescue' back in 1990. The charity was created by Susan Tellem and Mashall Thompson. It is a day where we celebrate the ancient reptiles and think about how we can help and protect the species from the common pet turtle to the great endangered sea turtle.  These wonderful creatures are on the edge of extinction due to harmful harvesting of eggs, hunting and our drastically changed, hazardous environment.

Back in 2011, I was fortunate enough to be selected out of many Girl Guides to go to Costa Rica to represent LaSER Guides (London and South East Region).

We went out there for several reasons, but the reason I will talk about today, and the one closes to my heart was maintaining the Turtle Sanctuary.  It is truely awe-inspiring to be able to say I patrolled miles of sandy beaches at night looking for hatching turtle nests and keeping a watchful eye out for poachers (of course we also had a Guide and someone from the Sanctuary with us). 

Whilst patrolling I really got to take a look at the night sky above, you don't realise how much the stars are diluted by light pollution until you visit a place where an area the size of a large County is cut off from electricity unless it is run on a generator. When I think back to my time in Costa Rica, I think then is the only time I will ever truly get to see the stars that close, natural and bright. 

During our time at the Sanctuary, if we were to find a nest of turtles - often the sand would have been disturbed, we had to inform the Guide and they would then bring a container to collect the small hatchlings and bring them back to the Sanctuary so they could be weighed, measured and recorded.

I got to handle two types of hatchlings whilst at the Sanctuary, the Hawksbill Turtle and the Leatherback Turtle. We had to wash our hands and put on medical gloves as the oils our skin emits can damage the soft shell of the baby turtles. This was life changing as both breeds of turtle are endangered, their numbers are at a critical level - the Hawksbill Turtle is considered the rarest of turtle in the world and we had 3 hatched in one day!

Once they had been catalogued, the following day the turtles would be taken back to the beach and set free. However we could not just let the new turtles straight into the sea, they needed to be released some distance away from the ocean so that they could exercise their flippers and build up muscle for when the sea would take them home and start their new life.

But how can you help? We don't have turtles nesting in the UK, but how we treat our own local enviroment can effect creatures all over the world!

5 Things You Can Do to Help Turtles:

  • Do not leave litter on the beach 

    Even if turtles are not native to your country, litter can travel for thousands of miles from the sea. If everyone were to take home 3 pieces of litter they saw on the beach we could reduce the amount of pollution drastically!

  • Celebrate events without Paper Lanterns or Helium Balloons.

    Yes, these are fun and a great way celebrate but once they escape from reach, they will eventually fall into the sea - especially if they have been released by the coast. Turtles are known to eat the plastic as they mistake it for Jellyfish and the result is catastrophic.

  • Refuse the Plastic Straw!

    When you use a disposable plastic straw it doesn't get washed and used again, it goes straight in the bin. Even when recycled the degrading time of the straws lifecycle is years. Sometimes these plastic straws get washed out into the ocean and harm sea life. There have been many viral videos when Turtles have ended up with straws lodged under their shells or up their nose with humans having to help take them out. This is both dangerous for the human and Turtle.
  • Donate to Charities such as WWF or American Tortoise Rescue

    There are several Charities who dedicate their time to saving endangered animals like Sea Turtles. You do not necessarily have to adopt a Turtle for a year for 'X' amount of money. They are grateful for any form of donation even £1 as it all helps to raise awareness for the Turtle.
  • Spread the word!

    Tell one person about Endangered Turtles and the struggles they face. Explain how they can help by simply picking up a piece of rubbish on the beach one morning whilst dog walking and how this act of kindness can save their lives, even if you are halfway around the world from their natural habitat. 
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Here is an Excerpt from BBC Earth with David



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