May 23, 2020
By Erica Rymer, Events and Marketing Coordinator
Slowly and steadily, turtles have woven their way into our hearts and into our culture through stories, parables, and even a memorable television show about pizza and karate! These lovable reptiles represent independence, endurance, longevity and patience around the world, which may be encouraging to us in the current climate of uncertainty and solitude. Since today is World Turtle Day, we wanted to share some stories and advice from the turtle, as well as introduce you to some of the Akron Zoo’s turtle species.
Slow and Steady Wins the Race
The slow movement of turtles has earned them a reputation of steadfastness, like in the fable “The Tortoise and the Hare.” Now before you say “that story is about a tortoise, not a turtle,” that is true. However, all tortoises are also turtles, and World Turtle Day is a holiday focused on both. Both turtles and tortoises belong to the order Testudines (reptiles having bodies encased in a bony shell), and tortoises are considered a subgroup of turtles who live solely on land.
A majority of tortoises move at an average speed of about 0.2 miles per hour. Does that mean they never get anything done? Of course not! It just means they complete tasks at a rate they are able to handle. Today, remember the value of endurance. Though the race seems long right now, keep moving forward. We can make it through this tough time together!
Growing Old Gracefully by Protecting Ourselves and Others
In ancient cultures, turtles represent endurance and longevity, since they are some of the oldest inhabitants of our planet. Turtles first appear in the fossil record more than 250 million years ago, and modern species not only have ancient roots; many also live to be ancient! Our Galapagos tortoises, for example, have the potential to live to the ripe old age of 150!
Many turtle species can be long lived because they are equipped with natural protections, such as hard shells that protect them from predators, and slow metabolisms that help them endure harsh conditions such as famine or droughts. We may not have natural protections like shells, but we can still equip ourselves with the proper protections for our environment to help our species live longer. Be responsible when you go out, and remember the appropriate protections for your environment!
Carrying the World on Your Back
In Hindu mythology, the whole Earth is balanced on the back of a giant cosmic turtle swimming through space. While not scientific, this myth may have been based on the observation of turtle species such as the snapping turtle who, upon emerging from hibernation, can sometimes be found carrying massive piles of dirt on their back.
At times like these, we may also feel as though the weight of the world is on our shoulders. However, it is important we remember that we do not need to carry this burden alone! Unlike the cosmic turtle, we can share our experiences with others and find comfort in knowing we are not alone in our struggles!
While stories of turtles can help us through life’s difficulties, turtle species also need our help to survive. More than 50% of the 356 known species of turtles are threatened with extinction, including the yellow spotted Amazon River turtles and Galapagos tortoises you may have encountered at the Akron Zoo. To help support our shelled friends, the Akron Zoo has partnered with the Turtle Survival Alliance, a group formed in the aftermath of the Asian Turtle Crisis to preserve turtle species. Through our partnership, the Akron Zoo supports field conservation focused on preventing extinctions by protecting turtle and tortoise habitats. You can help us by donating to our Animal Fund, which supports the turtles who call the Akron Zoo home, as well as the 18 field conservation projects we support around the world!
Thanks for shell-abrating World Turtle Day with us! We miss you and hope to see you soon!