World Turtle Day is celebrated every year on May 23; it is a day to think about all freshwater turtles, tortoises and sea turtles to recognise their amazing global diversity and raise awareness about the value of these reptiles to the planet and the threats facing them.
Turtles and tortoises are important for the Earth and contribute to the maintenance of nature’s ecological balance. These creatures have survived for over two million years - they pre-date snakes, crocodiles and alligators, many species of which are on the brink of extinction. They live in a wide variety of environments and habitats around the world, and we can all help to reverse the fate that many of them are moving toward.
In Hong Kong we have our own special turtles, and we will share more about these majestic native reptiles in separate posts.
How Can We Celebrate World Turtle Day?
- Raise awareness about turtle protection in your school, and among friends and family
- Use social media to spread awareness widely
- Learn more about the turtles and other animals that live around you and help to protect them by showing you care
- Donate money or time to accredited organisations for the preservation of these reptiles
- Recognise and restrict global-warming activities relating to human behaviour that are responsible for causing harm to turtles and tortoise species
- Reduce use of plastic products and make sure those you use are biodegradable, thus we lessen the impact on the ocean ecosystem
- Coordinate with friends and organise local beach cleaning activities to reduce marine pollution
- Practice appropriate waste disposal to minimise marine and river pollution
- Say “No!” to turtle products
On this special day join hands to save these iconic species!
Turtle Conservation Article
2001 Turtle Crisis
The 2001 Turtle Rescue Operation which helped coin the term Asian Turtle Crisis was a massive undertaking for KFBG.
On World Turtle Day we highlight this amazing feat 22 years after it happened and thank again all those that took part in this operation. The turtles and tortoises were on their way to food markets in south China and SE Asia and were the beginnings of many Govt seizures of turtles over the next two decades. Interestingly the same species are being seen in trade today but are solely for the exotic pet trade and not for food!
It involved not only staff from All departments assisting with the turtle facilities and husbandry but also the engagement of a large number of volunteers, turtle experts and veterinarians based in Hong Kong and from overseas. When the lorries rolled up at the centre with a full cargo of polystyrene and wooden boxes, for many of us the removal and care of close to 8,000 Asian turtles seemed a daunting if not impossible task. It was also winter in HK and many of the species were from the Malaysian tropics.
Nevertheless between us we managed to place all turtles in enclosures and provided water and in most cases some heating. We identified all species and started immediately communicating with overseas experts and the IUCN specialist groups to determine what the appropriate placement options might be once we stabilised some of the unfortunate animals. Several of the 12 species were endangered and 5 Malaysian River Terrapins were categorised as critically endangered globally. Nearly 5000 were sent to breeding centres overseas where some still exist today and an unknown number of offspring are likely to have been produced in the last 20 years.
|(Click the photo and learn more)||(Click the photo and learn more)|
|Global placement of turtles during the 2001 Turtle Crisis Operation|
Turtle Conservation Videos
The following three videos provide some insights into the turtle conservation work at KFBG. The Golden Coin Turtle Project which is a partnership with AFCD of the HK Government is a critical project for a critical species. The iconic Chinese turtle is close to extinction in the wild, but professional staff at KFBG are determined to prevent extinction and assure future generations of Hong Kong citizens get a chance to see this special turtle.
|Golden Coin Turtle hatchling||"Garden in the Sky" - Turtle rescue and conservation at KFBG||Big-headed Turtle released back to the wild|
Endangered Native Turtles in Hong Kong
Hong Kong supports five native species of turtle. All are rare and seriously threatened by collection for the pet trade and farming.
Among the five are iconic species that have long histories in Chinese tradition and culture and the prehistoric looking Big headed Turtle that used to be widespread in streams across the region but has been illegally poached on a massive scale reducing all wild populations remaining. The public may also be familiar with the Red-eared Slider, a species from the American continent in urban ponds, this was introduced and is also present in local reservoirs and is considered an invasive species.
|Beale's Turtle (Sacalia bealei)||Reeves Turtle (Mauremys reevesii)||Chinese Soft Shelled Turtle (Pelodiscus sinensis)|
|Big Head Terrapin (Platysternon megacephalum)||Golden Coin Turtle (Cuora trifasciata)|
A Day in The Life of a Rescued Turtle at KFBG
The KFBG Wild Animal Rescue centre regularly receives non-native species of reptiles seized by the authorities.
These reptiles are smuggled into HK primarily for the pet trade. Some may also be re-exported to other jurisdictions in Southeast Asia.
We try hard to find a long-term home for the reptiles on behalf of the HK Government, but sometimes this is not so easy as overseas conservation centres may not be able to care for the species or they may lack enclosure space to introduce more reptiles into their collections.
When we reach a dead-end with our rehoming actions the Live Education Displays section will often help to provide space in mixed or single species exhibits to care for the reptiles until we eventually find a suitable long-term home. While they remain at KFBG we are able to develop education material for the public to help raise awareness about the plight of the species and any conservation concerns associated with the animals.
Reptiles in mixed exhibits often show quite amusing behaviour through their interactions. These photographs and videos show what the reptiles get up to under the care of our Live exhibits team.
|Water Monitor meets Radiated Tortoise but not impressed by vegetarian cuisine||Rescued Monitor Lizards and Tortoises co-habit in large enclosures at KFBG||Meet the young Water Monitor and his friend the Black Pond Turtle|
|Common Caiman rests her chin on the back of an Asian Pond Turtle||Caiman and Giant Asian Pond Turtles share the spacious enclosure at KFBG||Giant Asian Pond Turtle finds nice resting spot on Common Caiman's back|
Time to have some fun and learn about the rare but iconic Golden Coin Turtle.
Get to know this special lucky turtle through some simple paper craft!