23 May 2014


"The turtles which outrun the hares are learning machines. If you stop learning in this world, the world rushes right by you." ~ Lucas Remmerswaal

The slow, funny, cunning shell-guy. That's the picture most of us carry in our minds about the tortoise--no thanks to the stories we were told as kids☺. I can hear someone ask, in this high-speed; high-tech world, why do we even need a slow tortoise around us? Why do we even go as far as dedicating a day to it on the international observance? Yes, I've got someone who has answers to all these and more questions you might have about the turtle and tortoise.

The American Tortoise Rescue (ATR) was founded over 2 decades ago by a couple, Susan and Marshall, their love for each other added to their passion for wildlife conservation has motivated them to save and re-home over 3000 turtles, as well as campaign for the protection of turtle habitats around the world. In their bid to take their project to the world, ATR has been sponsoring World Turtle Day since year 2000 and the global response both offline and online has been massive.

In course of our stroll, Susan shared her passion; the work ATR is into; and also some practical steps each and everyone of us can take to protect the tortoise and turtle for posterity. Here's my stroll with the American Tortoise Rescue; I hope you get 'edutained'.

Ebenezar: Thank you for having this stroll with me Susan.

Susan: You're welcome Ebenezar, the pleasure is mine.

Ebenezar: When I told my friend about World Turtle Day, the first thing she asked was, "Why should we have an observance for turtles?" Well, I tried my best to explain but I'm sure she wasn't convinced. So can you help me out here... why is it important that we observe World Turtle Day?

Susan: Many people view reptiles including turtles and tortoises as less important because they are not warm and fuzzy like dogs and cats. Typically many people donate to warm and fuzzy animal sites leaving turtles in the lurch. Turtles have outlived the dinosaurs and are a bell weather for our own future. Biologists predict that if we don’t do more to save our planet, turtles and tortoises may be gone in 50 years or less. So save their habitat from destruction and do everything you can to save them from extinction.

(Image Credit: ATR)
Ebenezar: What exactly is causing this habitat disappearance?

Susan: Typically it is habitat destruction, taking turtles and tortoises from the wild for the pet trade, buying an animal as an impulse buy at the pet store and then having it languish and die in a tank, smuggling of endangered species where many of them die from stress en route, long net fishing without turtle extruders, the cruel live food markets in the U.S. and other countries where demand for turtles exceeds hundreds of millions of turtles each year.

Ebenezar: Okay, the American Tortoise Rescue was founded 20 years ago and World Turtle Day has been observed for over a decade. What are some achievements we've recorded so far?

Susan: We were founded 24 years ago and since then have re-homed more than 3,000 turtles and tortoises to forever homes, educated people around the globe with World Turtle Day which is now celebrated everywhere from Borneo and Australia to Pakistan and the UK. We have more than 166,000,000 results on Google. That's a lot of people finding out how to save turtles and tortoises.

Ebenezar: Wow, that's awesome Can you share some practical steps individuals around the world can take to help support the vision of World Turtle Day and ATR?

Susan: Adults and children do a few small things that can help to save turtles and tortoises for future generations:

Never buy a turtle or tortoise from a pet shop as it increases demand from the wild. 

Ebenezar: Okay? No pet turtles...

Susan: Yeah, Never remove turtles or tortoises from the wild unless they are sick or injured.  If a tortoise is crossing a busy highway, pick it up and send it in the same direction it was going – if you try to make it go back, it will turn right around again. 

Ebenezar: (haha) Very wise creature ☺

Susan: Yeah, extremely wise. People can also write letters to legislators asking them to keep sensitive habitat preserved or closed to off road vehicles, and to prevent off shore drilling that can lead to endangered sea turtle deaths.

Report cruelty or illegal sales of turtles and tortoises to your local animal control shelter. Report the use of tiny turtles as prizes at carnivals and other events. It’s illegal. Report the sale of any turtle or tortoise of any kind less than four inches. This is illegal to buy and sell them throughout the U.S.

Ebenezar: Wow, thanks for that insight into what we can all do to contribute to the cause. Also, ATR was founded by you and Marshall, your husband, and I'm just wondering how come you guys have a mutual love for this animal...

Susan: I was a cat rescuer for many years and then Marshall mentioned he loved turtles. Before I knew it was a bad thing to do I bought two for his birthday many years ago. Then we started reading up on how was a bad idea as they take them out of the wild for pet stores. Then we learned there was no national turtle and tortoise rescue and a lot of animals just got dumped so we decided to start a small local rescue which grew to an international one very quickly. We became a nonprofit about six years later and the rest is history.

Susan and Marshall
Ebenezar: Okay, and I'm just curios too, is it the turtle that brought you guys together in love? (Haha)

Susan: No comment ☺ 

Ebenezar: Awwww, I think we all know what that means (haha). The Tortoise was always a super hero in the stories and fables I was told as a child. I'm a student of Biomimicry, and I believe there are lessons we can learn from plants and animals around the world. What are some virtues you think humans can copy from the Tortoise/Turtle?

Susan: Well unfortunately the reputation as a super hero (like the popular Ninja Turtle movies) has caused many problems instead of being a good thing. Children demand that their parents buy them a turtle and then are disappointed when it doesn’t fly or do acrobatics. Then the turtle just sits in a tank and ultimately dies or is dumped. 

No turtle should ever live in a tank – it’s like you or me being confined to a bathtub the rest of our lives. And no child should have a turtle as a pet until they are old enough to responsibly care for it – 13 and up. Many of these animals can easily live 100 years... 

Ebenezar: Wow, that's real longevity.

Susan: Yeah. So when you adopt a turtles or tortoise remember that you will have to put their care in your will.

Ebenezar: (Haha) And many people never do that. Okay, What are the future goals of the American Tortoise Rescue? Do you plan to expand? Perhaps start similar organizations on other continents?

Susan: We already facilitate education and adoption in other countries and have for years – the internet made that happen rather early in our existence. The goal is to expand our social media outreach on Facebook and twitter so that we can educate many more people. Google is already helping us a lot. 

Ebenezar: Happy World Turtle Day Susan, thank you so much once again for speaking with me. 

Susan: Thank you Ebenezar, Happy Turtle Day.

For more about the American Tortoise Rescue and World Turtle Day click here

It's really sad to hear predictions like, "This animal will go extinct in the next 50 years if nothing is done", or "that animal is the last of its specie...". It creeps me out. With the way things are going will there even be zoos in the future?

We all have a responsibility to protect wildlife. Save a turtle/tortoise today. Till my next stroll on June 5th--World Environment Day--when I'll be strolling with Robert Swan( UN Goodwill Ambassador, Environmental leader, and first person to walk to the North and South pole); be good. Jesus Loves you

"The righteous care for the needs of their animals..." (Proverbs 12v10, NIV)



  1. Susan rocks and so does American Tortoise Rescue!

  2. Thanks for continuously educating us on how to take care of turtles!