Turtles in Trouble
Half of all turtle species are now threatened with extinction. Turtles are more endangered than birds, fish, or amphibians. If we do nothing, many of the planet's turtles will become extinct within the next few decades.
Collection for trade
Millions of turtles are removed from the wild each year for food, pets, and traditional medicines. Many of these turtles are kept in unhealthy conditions and may die in transit.
Clearing of land for agriculture and urbanization, including the draining of wetlands and the channelization of rivers, changes or destroys vital habitats for turtles.
Pollution and litter
Toxic chemicals, sewage, and other pollutants discharged into streams and rivers can sicken or kill turtles. Turtles can swallow or be entangled in litter, causing injury or death.
Nest temperatures may be affected by climate changes. Turtle eggs are extremely sensitive to temperature variations, even small changes can cause eggs to not hatch or affect the gender of offspring.
Infectious diseases are a large and increasing conservation concern for turtles in the US, causing illness and death. You can help minimize the spread of these diseases by not releasing captive turtles into the wild or by not relocating turtles from one location to another.
Cars are a major killer of turtles in areas of high road density. Turtles crossing roadways may be hit, both accidently and intentionally, by drivers.
Numbers of small predators, such as raccoons, have increased due to humans. These animals raid turtle nests and in some cases consume all of the eggs laid in an area before they can hatch.
Help Save Turtles
Here are five actions that can help save turtles:
- Pick it Up! Don't litter. If you see litter and it is safe to do so, pick it up! Use reusable bags and bottles.
- Take it Slow! If you see a turtle or tortoise crossing the road while driving, slow down. Only stop and move it in the direction it is heading if it is safe to do so.
- Don't Collect! Don't collect turtles and tortoises from the wild. If you want a turtle or tortoise for a pet, research and buy responsibly captive bred pets.
- Keep it Wild! Help protect wetlands by not wasting water, planting rain gardens, and using rain barrels for irrigation. Also buy certified responsibly harvested wood/sustainable palm oil.
- Don't Release! Don't release unwanted pets into the wild. Contact local rescue organizations, pet stores, etc. to find a new home.
Turtle Conservation Projects and Resources
- Saint Louis Zoo Institute for Conservation Medicine Box Turtle Project and Galapagos Tortoise Movement Ecology Program
- Missouri Department of Conservation Turtle Information
- Turtle Survival Alliance
- Turtle Conservancy and Behler Chelonian Center
- American Tortoise Rescue
- Asian Turtle Program
- Sea Turtle Conservancy