RACE AGAINST THE RACE?
The tortoise may have won the race against the hare in the age-old Aesop’s fable, but is rapidly losing its entire race (in the literal sense) against mankind. Known as ‘rocks with legs’, turtles and tortoises have long been exploited as species for reasons that are mainly frivolous. Commercial and/or Illegal pet trade misinterpreted feng shui icons and unproven medicinal benefits to state a few. They are amongst the most threatened of the major groups of vertebrates in the world, perhaps even more than birds, mammals, fish and amphibians. A scaringly high, 61% of the 356 known species of turtles today are either endangered or have become extinct in modern times-mostly due to habitat destruction, overexploitation for food, commercial pet trade, diseases, and climate change.
RESPONSIBLE PET OWNERSHIP
Narrowing down to the pet trade, the world over, and especially in India, turtles and tortoises are very popular choices for pets. They're perceived to be the least demanding and most accommodating as far as space and attention are concerned. Also in the majority of households, they’re brought in because of the common belief that a presence of a turtle brings peace, harmony, good health and wealth into the house. An endless number of turtles and tortoises are trafficked to feed this superstition and lose their lives or healthiness as they're not meant to be captive animals. And if abandoned for any reason, these creatures either fail to survive or end up causing a huge disturbance to the ecosystem. Even smuggled for medicinal purposes that may or may not have been scientifically proven, these species have suffered incalculably, due to the beliefs and wrongdoings of humans. Realistically speaking, the health, wealth and wellness of us as humans depend on how we live our lives and not on how many lives we hold captive.
CHELONIANS AT RESQ
Just in the year 2021-2022, RESQ Wildlife TTC has been a rehabilitation centre for a total of 367 chelonians that were rescued from various scenarios of illegal captivity by the Maharashtra Forest Department. After undergoing quarantine, medical checks and rehabilitation, most of these have been released into a habitat best suitable for them to thrive with the help of the MFD. We still have many who are still at the Reptile Transit Unit in RESQ, recuperating. But that's just the story of those who made it to us. What about hundreds and thousands of others, that have lost their freedom, liveliness and even lives because some child somewhere demanded an ‘easy pet’? Or some family decide to depend on a turtle for their happiness? Or some quack thought he could cure a deadly disease in humans with the help of turtles?
THE JEWEL OF THE ECOSYSTEM
What we, the humans of the planet need to understand is that, beyond the misconceptions of turtles benefiting our health or well-being, they're truly valuable to maintaining or restoring the well-being of our biological diversity. Turtles contribute largely to maintaining an ecological balance, whether it's the desert, wetland, freshwater or marine ecosystems. They graze, dig burrows, disperse seeds, create and modify habitats and affect food webs and mineral cycling. Turtles and their eggs form an important part of the food chain by being prey to a wide variety of predators. Why then would you uproot them from where they belong doing what they do best, and force them into an environment they don't belong to, and do nothing but watch their lives depreciate for the worst?
WORLD TURTLE DAY- LET’S NOT JUST CELEBRATE THE DAY, BUT THE ENTIRE SPECIES-
23rd May each year is celebrated as World Turtle Day to help educate people about this species and their disappearing habitats globally along with helping them survive and thrive. Today, on World Turtle Day, let's pledge to protect them from all our unnecessary shenanigans and let them live the life they deserve. Let’s talk about them where they're far away from us and cannot hear us and not in their presence because they do not want to hear us. They’re not just ‘rocks with legs’ but a rock-solid element of our ecosystem. The theme for this year’s World Turtle Day is also 'Turtles Rock', which they truly do. So let us celebrate these chelonians, protect them, respect them, and keep them wild.