World Turtle Day 2017

by Jordan Gray 

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For the past 17 years, World Turtle Day®, begun by the American Tortoise Rescue, has been growing at a steady clip. Conservation groups and citizens alike have used this day to spread awareness and cheer for the 441 taxa of turtles and tortoises that reside across our six temperate continents (sorry Antarctica, not yet). This year, the TSA celebrated World Turtle Day® across our range-country programs, including our first-ever “Turtlemania” event in Austin, Texas!

With our global programs existing across a multitude of time zones, the events of World Turtle Day® began in Southeast Asia with a media extravaganza entertained by TSA Myanmar-Director Kalyar Platt. Kalyar started the day as a guest on the MRTV4 morning show spreading the message of chelonian conservation efforts in Myanmar and worldwide. After this fun segment, a media press event was hosted by the Wildlife Conservation Society’s (WCS) Myanmar headquarters in Yangon, and was attended by all the print and televised news outlets in Myanmar! This year, Kalyar and her team have had much to celebrate with numerous hatching events of the country’s most imperiled turtles. Most recently, the first-known captive hatching of the endemic Burmese Eyed Turtle (Morenia ocellata) occurred at the Myaing Ka Lay Buddhist monastery. Although Kalyar’s work is never done, with a continual barrage of threats against the chelonians of Myanmar, her voice for the country’s chelonians reached across Myanmar, and will inspire new generations of conservationists!

Next door in neighboring Bangladesh, the program for the Critically Endangered Northern River Terrapin (Batagur baska) had their own ideasfor a World Turtle Day® celebration. Bangladesh field coordinator Rupali Ghosh was excited to announce the hatching of 22 individuals at the assurance colony in Bhawal National Park. These 22 terrapins are part of the 118 Northern River Terrapins that have hatched this season between the two assurance colonies for the species at Bhawal and the Karamjal Forest Station in Bangladesh!

The party really got going in India as the Uttar Pradesh Forest and Wildlife Department and Mr. Anupam Gupta teamed up with TSA-India to host a “Turn Up for Turtles” educational event at the Kukrail Gharial and Turtle Centre in Lucknow. The event was sponsored by Turtle Limited, one of India’s leading menswear companies, as well as India’s #1 Hindi music radio station, Radio Mirchi 98.3 FM. This event was attended by over 200 people and included such entertainment as a “Walk for Turtles”, quiz competition, and hands-on outreach with some of India’s beautiful chelonians. TSA-India’s Shailendra Singh, Arunima Singh, and Saurav Gawan, focused on making this event entertaining and educational for all class and age levels of Indian society. Beyond World Turtle Day®, India has also had much to celebrate this Spring as the nesting beaches and assurance colonies there have been very active with the hatching of some of the world’s most vulnerable riverine turtles including the Red Crowned Roofed Turtle (Batagur kachuga) and the Three-striped Roofed Turtle (Batagur dhongoka)!

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Roughly 8,500 miles and 10 time zones in between, the TSA was preparing for “Turtlemania” at County Line on the Lake in Austin, Texas. This first-ever event was a collaboration between the TSA, County Line BBQ, and Hops & Grain Brewing Company. The County Line on the Lake, owned by Skeeter Miller, is situated on a tributary of Lake Austin, and is known for its daily visitations of chelonian clientele! For years, large aggregates of freshwater turtles have congregated at the restaurant’s dock, anxiously waiting to be fed by restaurant patrons. This aggregate, large-in-size, and diverse in species assemblage, caught the attention of the TSA’s North American Freshwater Turtle Research Group (TSA-NAFTRG) in 2016, and has since become a site for long-term population monitoring. 

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The event was very well attended, and included the sale of TSA merchandise, customized “Drink Beer, Save Turtles” pint glasses, Hops & Grain Brewery’s “River Beer”, legendary barbecue courtesy of County Line BBQ, and native Texas freshwater turtles for outreach. Besides World Turtle Day®, “Turtlemania” coincided with TSA-NAFTRG’s population sampling effort of Lake Austin. As such, it provided an opportunity for the local community and media to observe turtle research in action. The day’s events were covered by the Austin American-Statesman, Spectrum News Austin, and Animal Planet. A momentous day was had by all!

Lastly, the TSA was honored to have been contacted by Bonfire, a creative marketing agency specializing in custom t-shirt sales. Designers there had created a World Turtle Day® logo specifically for the TSA, and offered to partner in a week-long fundraising event. The online sales of this fundraising event were so successful that it was extended by several days. Thanks Bonfire!

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The TSA looks forward to continuing meaningful partnerships with organizations and businesses that share in the love and promotion of chelonians across the world. We have already begun talks with the amazing folks at County Line on the Lake to partner on more chelonian conservation events and we fully expect to have another successful “Turtlemania” in Austin, May 23, 2018. While May 23rd may be World Turtle Day® on the calendar to celebrate chelonian diversity, every day is a day for the TSA to celebrate the turtles and tortoises of the world!