Turtles are one of the most endearing and symbolic of America's native wildlife. Turtles not only fascinate each passing generation of children, who find endless wonders under those hard shells, but they also continue to serve as a timeless role model in children's literature: the slow and steady turtle, whose patient progress always wins out against his fast but reckless competitor.
Yet the turtles' lofty status hasn't prevented humans from abusing the creature. In fact, all land, freshwater, and sea turtles are facing imminent threats to their survival, simply because of human activities. Turtles are the reptile most affected by the pet trade, not to mention the food and traditional medicine industries. Many turtle species also suffer from the effects of pollution as well as from the destructive effects of industrial fishing operations.
Despite these hardships, May is a busy month for turtles. Many have recently emerged from winter hibernation and are beginning their search for mates and nesting areas. For this reason, May 23 was designated World Turtle Day.
photo by Mark Pyle