Thanks to the ever-increasing awareness brought about by organizations like the American Tortoise Rescue (founders of World Turtle Day-May 23) the Turtle Survival Alliance and many others we understand that there are critical issues facing our shelled friends all over the earth. But not everyone can jet off to Madagascar or another exotic locale to help those struggling to keep threatened species alive or fight the poaching of thousands for the food and pet black market trade. These situations are devastating but can seem very far away from the average keeper.
So this year in honor of World Turtle Day I wanted to share with you the top 5 things that I believe EVERYONE can do to help no matter their economic status or ability to find their passport.
1. Increased Plastic Awareness
What does this mean?? I see plastics as one of the largest issues to face our planet. This is 100% a human-generated problem. Plastics did not create themselves. Each disposable spoon, straw, grocery bag and action figure was manufactured, purchased and disposed of. Why not join me in the simple act of recycling all of our household plastics and when we can, choosing environmentally responsible options to replace them. When dining out you can either refuse the unnecessary straw(do you actually NEED it?) or bring a reusable one. There are many options nowadays to choose from. From grocery bags made of fabric, reusable stainless steel straws to single-use utensils that safely decompose. But it must start with being more aware of the plastics that come into our lives. That new toy your child wants is likely both made of it and sealed up in it. The medication that you need is likely bottled in it. We won’t remove all of these from our lives entirely or immediately. But how we handle them is entirely within our power.
2. Support a local “Clean Up”
More and more communities are joining together to clean up their local natural habitats. Creek Clean ups, Beachcombing for garbage and Watershed conservation days need volunteers! These are great programs to get children involved in. They get to experience the importance of caring for our environment while having fun and benefiting from your good example. A good sturdy pair of gloves is usually all that is required. But when there is no organization taking the lead in this there is no rule that says individuals cannot do it for themselves! Advertise on a local community website or bulletin board and hopefully, you will have some help! With more than 360 native reptile species in the US, the results of this are potentially far greater than many people realize on the wildlife. But let us also consider that Grassroots efforts are powerful things that can turn strangers into neighbors, friends and community leaders.
3. Reduce your Energy use
This can be a powerful one as reptile keepers we tend to use lots of electricity to keep our scaley friends at their proper temperatures year round. Some of the energy bills here at the rescue are shocking quite frankly. In my efforts to reduce this financial and dirty power burden I have signed up for a Free program called OhmConnect that works through my local (California – PG&E) electric provider and rewards me for reducing my energy consumption during peak hours. My provider first uses clean energy sources and in peak times will purchase dirty energy if they must. By my not consuming energy at this time the demand for dirty power is reduced. I am pleased to say that this is a minor ripple in our lives that my family has quickly become accustomed to. Simply put, when I get notified that an OhmHour is coming up I prepare them in advance. The little one gets out his favorite flashlight. The older one has time to turn off his delicate electronics and make sure the all-important cellphone is charged beforehand. I cover enclosures to retain the heat as much as possible and light a couple of candles. Then at the designated time… I switch everything off..Yup, the circuit breaker for the entire property is flipped. My choice to flip the big switch is not required by the company. A simple turning off of the lights will often suffice. But the bigger reduction is rewarded for sure. It only lasts for an hour and has not so far caused any negative effect to the enclosure temperatures or my family to be totally electricity free for an hour a few times a week. If you are interested in programs like this check with your local provider or click this link and see if you are eligible to participate in the same program as I do. I might get a little reward for the referral but hey…who doesn’t love that!
4. Support a Local Rescue
OK sooo…yes this one is a tiny bit self serving. Let’s face it, I run a rescue and need help often to do so. But I am not talking about throwing your checkbooks at me. Although I wouldn’t object to that…but support is far more than financial. This is hard, time consuming and often heartbreaking work. Do you have time to volunteer? Help with transportation of rescues? Having help at a rescue adoption or public outreach event is so important. Let’s face it somebody has to stay with the animals while I go pee. Can you foster a rescue in your home? Having fosters available that can care for the healthy ones while they await their forever homes allows me the room and time to take in more medically challenged cases without sacrificing the quality of care for anyone. Do you have building supplies that are going unused from an old project? These can be turned into sturdy repairs to enclosures(SULCATAS!) and willing hands are always needed for that job too. Oftentimes for myself however it is equally important to be told that my work has value to another. A shoulder to lean..or cry on, someone who is willing to help me bear the emotional toll when things go wrong. We all need some affirmation at times. It is entirely free and yet so very, very valuable. So find a local rescue and lend a hand if you can. Or visit here…I’ll put you to work for sure!
5. Support a Conservation Group or Research Project
These are bigger and often global efforts where volunteers are working on projects in distant lands. But almost as often there are projects that need support throughout the US. Biological sampling, measuring, weighing, population studies and other scientific research happens wherever the animals are. We still have so much to learn that these research efforts are important. Now again, the purpose of this post here is to offer things that EVERYONE can do and quite simply not everyone is going to able to put on a snorkel and fins and catch turtles from the muddy bottoms of rivers no matter if they are in the far-flung places or their own backyard. So for those that cannot do so, I will simply say that the importance of SHARING these efforts cannot be overstated. We operate in a digital world nowadays and each company relies on its audience engagement for success. Follow their social media accounts. Share their posts and fundraisers. Sure, give when you can(yard sale anyone?) but even when you cannot financially contribute.. SHARE!
I hope this inspires you to take a look at some simple, actionable things that can help you and inspire you to make every day World Turtle Day!