World Turtle Day – May 23rd

World Turtle Day is an annual event that has been taking place since 2000. It was founded by American Tortoise Rescue (founded in 1990), a non-profit organisation that rescues and rehabilitates all species of tortoise and turtle. It also does a lot of work on protecting the environments in which these animals live.

The purpose of World Turtle Day is to educate people about the things that they can do to protect the habitats of turtles and tortoises. It is also a celebration of the joy that these reptiles bring to so many people.

The day is celebrated in a number of ways all over the world. There are many people that dress as turtles while others may just decide to wear something green. People also get actively involved in projects that help rescue turtles that may be living in their local area.

Communities work to ensure the protection of turtles are even included in the infrastructure. In Miami, Florida at South Pointe Beach on the promenade there are 18 lighting pylon structures placed for pleasant and functional lighting in the evenings for people as they walk along and each year during the six month turtle nesting season, all the pylon lights change color and illuminate the promenade with an amber long-wavelength light, which does not interfere with turtle hatchlings migrating from their nests on the beach back to the ocean that can otherwise be confused by bright lights at night. 

As well as celebrating and raising awareness about the protection of turtles and tortoises they are important in world cultures both past and present. 

In ancient Greece civilization, coins from Aegina show a turtle which symbolises the naval strength of Aegina.

In Japanese and Chinese mythology kame is a symbol of power and immortality. Kame supports the World Mountain, a refuge of the immortals. One such image is found in the monument to Tokugawa Ieyasu in Ryogoku, Tokyo. Kame have often been pictured in the past by Japanese artists.

In Mayan mythology, turtles are associated with water and earth. The cosmic turtle upon which the earth rests above the primordial ocean is a common theme in most native American creation stories.

In Vietnam, a 15th-century legend tells that Lê Lợi returned his sacred sword named Thuận Thiên (Heaven’s Will) to Golden Turtle in Lục Thủy lake after he had defeated the Ming army. That is why Lục Thủy lake was renamed Sword Lake (Vietnamese: Hồ Gươm) or Returning Sword lake (Hoàn Kiếm Lake). This action symbolizes taking leave of weapons for peace.

In China, the tortoise is one of the “Four Fabulous Animals”, the most prominent beasts of China. These animals govern the four points of the compass, with the Black Tortoise the ruler of the north, symbolizing endurance, strength, and longevity. Due to its longevity, a symbol of a turtle was often used during burials. A burial mound might be shaped like a turtle, and even called a “grave turtle.” A carved turtle, known as bixi was used as a plinth for memorial tablets of high-ranking officials during the Sui dynasty (581-618 CE) and the Ming periods (1368-1644 CE).

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