The Green Blog
Save the Turtle, Save Ourselves

World Turtle Day is on May 23. You can be a part of the effort to save turtles and tortoises by checking out the American Tortoise Rescue  and help Delta Zeta's beloved mascot. The purpose of World Turtle Day, sponsored yearly since 2000 by American Tortoise Rescue, is to bring attention to, and increase knowledge of and respect for, turtles and tortoises, and encourage human action to help them survive and thrive.

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Lonesome George

Delta Zetas have an affinity for the turtle.  After all, he is the official mascot of the Sorority.  At Pink Goes Green, we think about the role turtles and tortoises play in the balance of our delicate world, and how their existence is important in maintaining that balance. Lonesome George is a striking example.

Lonesome George, a male Pinta Island tortoise (Chelonoidis nigra abingdonii) and the last known individual of the subspecies, was said to be the rarest creature in the world. George served as a potent symbol for conservation efforts in the Galápagos Islands and throughout the world. Sadly, Lonesome George died in 2012, well over the age of 100, due to heart failure consistent with the end of the natural life cycle of a tortoise. He represented the tragedy of a species hunted to extinction, and personified what we as humans can learn about preserving the Earth and the life that depends on it, including our own.

In 2008, this headline about the giant tortoise caught my eye:

Lonesome George attempts to repopulate species
"Lonesome George's name kind of sums up the Galapagos giant tortoise well. He's the key to save his species from extinction, yet for the past 36 years he has spent in captivity, George has ignored the bevy of females clamoring for some of his attention.

"You can imagine the surprise of his keepers then when the Pinta island tortoise recently decided to mate with one of his two female companions belonging to a similar Galapagos tortoise species. George's mating efforts have yielded a nest with several eggs in his pen, three of which were removed and placed in incubators. It will still be a few months before it is known if the eggs contain George's offspring.

"The keepers had all but given up on old George getting his act together and were desperate enough to try artificial insemination and forcing George to watch younger male tortoises mate (you know, in case it was just a matter of him forgetting how), however somewhere between the age of 60 and 90, George is in his sexual prime. Reproduction on his part is desired because he is considered the world's rarest creature by some and, after fishermen killed his species for food, is believed to be the last of his kind. There is some optimism for now though that even though it wouldn't be soon, George's species could live once more.

"'Even if these three eggs are fertile and the born tortoises survive it will take several (genetic) generations to think of having a Pinta purebred ... even centuries,'  the park said in a statement."  (Source: Ecollo.com)

Kelley's Note: Unfortunately, the eggs were inviable and never hatched.
Can the turtle survive the 21st century? Nearly half of the world's turtle species face possible extinction, due in large part to the growing use of turtles as sources for food and medicinal ingredients.  And while the plight of sea turtles is fairly well known, very few people realize that many freshwater turtles and tortoises face an even more critical situation. The causes are crystal clear, says Dr. Jeffrey Lovich, a scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey. "With freshwater turtles we know that it's over exploitation by humans, so we know it's manageable. The issue is, are people willing to stop killing turtles, especially in Southeast Asia."

The Southeast Asian trade is driven by an enormous and growing demand from China, where age-old traditions of consuming turtles for food and as medicine are growing dramatically with increased affluence and the recent convertibility of Chinese currency. Some of the most desired species cost as much as $1,000 in Southeast Asian markets.

Habitat loss is a serious threat to all turtle populations.The gopher tortoise, for instance, is declining throughout its range, particularly in Florida, primarily because of development. In 2007, Florida stopped issuing permits that allowed developers to bury gopher tortoises alive during construction. Instead, developers are working with The Humane Society of the United States and others to relocate these treasured animals. Development along coastlines reduces suitable nesting habitats for sea turtles. Refuse, such as discarded plastic bags and balloons, causes suffocation, strangulation, or blocked digestive tracts in turtles. Pollution, in the form of hazardous chemicals and garbage, further limits suitable habitats for turtles and causes illness and death in many land, freshwater, and sea turtles.

The United States, home to about 55 species of turtles representing approximately 20 percent of the world's total turtle diversity, exports more than 7 million turtles every year as pets or food products. Scientists say that of the 55 species in the U.S., 25 species are in need of conservation action, and 21 species are protected, or are candidates for protection.

Freshwater turtle experts attending an international conference outlined a series of measures to address the turtle survival crisis, calling for stricter enforcement of existing laws, an increase in import and export regulations governing international trade of freshwater turtles, and the establishment of captive breeding programs for some of the most endangered species. The scientists also want more dialogue among international researchers and policy makers, and recommended that non-governmental conservation organizations develop turtle conservation strategies.

"We are on the brink of losing a group of animals that has managed to survive the upheavals of the last 200 million years, including the great extinction episode that eliminated the dinosaurs," says Dr. Russell Mittermeier, president of Conservation International.  (Source: http://www.cnn.com/NATURE/9908/27/fresh.turtle.enn/index.html)

By becoming involved and taking the necessary action, we are learning more and more about what the turtles need. In responding to these needs, we have learned to be better human beings. We need to build bridges between people from different lands and different walks of life. We need support from the youngest children to the most diehard politicians. And we need the turtles. They are teaching us to save our beaches, our coastal areas, seagrass beds, coral reefs and the open oceans. The needs of humankind are hinged upon the health of the oceans. Ultimately, it is the turtles that are teaching us humans how to save ourselves on earth. (Source: http://www.un.org)

What can we do to help save the turtles?  Check out these organizations below today or do your own research in your community to find out how you can help the turtle keep his important place in nature!

Also, read: The World from a Sea Turtle's Point of View


The World Turtle Trust

Save the Sea Turtle 

Oceana.org

The Turtle Hospital 

American Tortoise Rescue 

Adopt a Sea Turtle

The Humane Society