Earth DayEnvironment

World Turtle Day: History, Celebration, and Themes

World Turtle Day was founded by American Tortoise Rescue and was celebrated for the first time in 2000. The founder of American Tortoise Rescue (ATR) is Susan Tellem and Marshall Thompson (a husband and wife team).


When is World Turtle Day?

World Turtle Day is celebrated on 23rd May every year. The main objective of celebrating World Turtle Day is to spread awareness about the protection of the natural habitat of turtles & tortoises.

American Tortoise Rescue is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to working for the rehabilitation and rescue of all different species of turtles and tortoises. The organization also works to protect the environment where these reptile species live.

It is an international event celebrated all over the world in different ways. People organize various events and activities to celebrate this day for the preservation of turtles for the upcoming generations. Spreading awareness in schools is also an important activity to make the youth aware of the risks involved with the survival of these species of the reptile family.

If you also care about turtles and want to contribute to protecting these wonderful species, then you can go through this article to collect more information about World Turtle Day and conservation of these species.

World Turtle Day History and Events

World Turtle Day Wiki:

The husband-wife team of American Tortoise Rescue realized in 1990 that some species of the beautiful hard-shelled reptile are very close to extinction. There were many causes of this extinction, such as environmental hazards, cruel hunting of these species, harvesting of their eggs for human profits, etc.

This was the time when they took this issue on a serious note and decided to stand for the protection of this water species. The husband-wife team took this issue on the international platform and planned to spread awareness about the conservation of various species of turtles and tortoises across the globe. As a result of their initiative, the emergence of World Turtle Day happened, and we started celebrating it on 23rd May every year. However, the official announcement of this day occurred in the year 2000.

In 2000, this was the start of the journey of World Turtle Day. The organization put a lot of effort into educating and encouraging people about the protection of turtles and tortoises along with the loss of their habitat. 

In 2002, The American Tortoise Rescue organization announced the world turtle day to be celebrated on 23rd May every year. Since then, we have celebrated this event on this particular date annually. 

In 2004, World Turtle Day was celebrated with a lot of passion. Various activities were carried out this year for the protection of turtles. World Turtle Trust funded for Costa Rica Leather-back project for nesting on the beach.

In 2007, the non-profit organization “American Tortoise Rescue” got approval from the Ministry for the Environment in French Polynesia to monitor and safeguard a field during the entire nesting season on Tetiaroa. 

Since 2007, the organization continued the process of monitoring turtles and was also concerned about their protection.

In 2010, World Turtle Day was again celebrated as raising awareness about the different species of turtles and tortoises. However, the main attraction this year was the Parthe, smiley sunny turtle, and Perth, black and white group shot.

In 2011, the Sydney Aquarium Conservation Fund (SACF) announced the launching of a turtle tagging project in support of world turtle day. The main objective of this project was to spread awareness about the threat to the turtles and their protection.  

In 2012, this day was celebrated with more passion and enthusiasm. On 23rd May 2012, 33 new turtles were hospitalized at Wildlife Center along with other non-turtle creatures. The good news was that out of 33, 17 turtles were ready to release after cure.

In 2013, it was a new beginning to the celebration of World Turtle Day. American Tortoise Rescue organization was getting achievements year by year in its great movement of rescuing turtles. This year Wildlife Center recovered and rehabilitated 5 Eastern Box Turtles. These five turtles returned to their natural wildlife after a long period of recovery. 

A dozen turtles remained at the center for further recovery and hospitalization.


In 2014, the Wildlife Center was celebrating the “part two of turtle release 2014” sponsored by American Tortoise Rescue. This year, it was celebrated with a release of a dozen turtles back to their home territories. On this turtle day, the diet of each turtle included a big berry as a treat.    

In 2015, the Wildlife Center achieved great results in rescuing turtles sponsored by American Tortoise Rescue. This year, Wildlife Center was taking care of 24 turtles that were admitted in 2014. Out of these 24 turtles, 14 turtles were ready to release in their home territories. As a celebration of World Turtle Day, these 14 turtles were planned to move to an outdoor enclosure for one week after that they were released to their territories.

In 2016, the Wildlife Center and American Tortoise Rescue organization were facing towards a new successful year for world turtle day. In 2016, the center was taking care of 25 turtles. Many of these turtles were recovered and ready to leave the center within a few weeks.  

In 2017, the world turtle day was observed worldwide on 23rd May. The day was celebrated globally to save turtles and tortoises that are rapidly becoming endangered due to loss of habitat and destruction of the ocean ecosystem.  

In 2018, people across the world got involved in various projects that include the rescue of turtles and tortoises. The celebrations and protection activities were happening in different parts of the globe in support of World Turtle Day.

In 2019, this event was celebrated under a tagline “Shellebrate World Turtle Day 2019”. The theme of World Turtle Day 2019 was “Adopt, Don’t Shop.” There were many activities included in the celebration of World Turtle Day 2019, such as dressing up like a turtle, conducting roadshows promoting the existence of turtles, distributing many lessons & teaching material in various schools for awareness about turtle protection, etc.  

World Turtle Day 2020

The planning for the events and activities were started with a lot of enthusiasm. It was another year to bring attention and increase knowledge about protecting the world’s oldest reptile creature.

World Turtle Day 23 May

The theme of World Turtle Day 2020 was focused on bringing attention and increasing respect and knowledge for tortoises and turtles and, in addition, motivating humans to come and help them survive.

This international event was celebrated worldwide in various ways. People were dressed up in green in support of World Turtle Day. Multiple events were organized. A lot of knowledge was shared about the importance of turtles to the marine ecosystem and for the entire environment. Along with this, different ideas were shared about the conservation of this shell-covered sea creature.

World Turtle Day 2021

This year, on 23 and 24th May, the entire world “shellebrated” the occasion of our reptile heroes – turtles. And the theme for this year was “Turtles Rock”, which means “turtles are not rocks with legs”.

American Tortoise Rescue (ATR) has celebrated the 21st World Turtle Day by spreading awareness about one of the oldest creatures in this world through giving respect and sharing knowledge through their site

Also, the UN Biodiversity organization has provided a solid reason to celebrate World Turtle Day 2021 on social media. Scientists rescued the critically endangered Bellinger River snapping turtles and bred about 35 healthy babies. After the breeding cycle, scientists already sent 20 turtles back to the wild and decided to release the rest when they were ready.

On 24th May, Oceana Canada, through the hashtag #WorldTurtleDay, raised its voice for the ban on single-use of plastics, which causes the sea turtles to ingest them, and several other difficulties.

Further, Ross Park Zoo used the hashtag #EndPlasticPollution to let the world know the harmful impact of plastics on our majestic creatures, mainly living in oceans.

TC Energy has installed a 2.5 km-long tunnel that avoided interrupting any nesting sites and coastal areas for turtles for the protection of biodiversity. This is the biggest celebration for World Turtle Day from this Mexican organization.

This International Turtle Day, Morris Animal Foundation has shellebrated the progress of their 20-year-long conservation efforts for this endangered species. They have rescued and hospitalized 11,000+ sea turtles in the U.S.

Besides these, numerous organizations and individuals have also celebrated and raised awareness about protecting and conserving these endangered organisms and their habitats.

On June 9, 2021, the Tortoise rescue organization celebrated World Turtle Day by raising awareness about how temperature rise has impacted the tortoises in the California desert.

Indi Kindi, another organization working on the welfare of kids, was celebrating World Turtle Day on June 4, 2021. They have created turtle sculptures and enjoyed grape and kiwifruit turtles while learning about the importance of turtle habitat protection from the Li-Anthawirriyarra sea ranges.

World Turtle Day 2022

Like every year, this year also, World Turtle Day was celebrated on 23rd May, Monday. Some hashtags used to participate in this occasion were #Shellebrate, #WorldTurtleDay, and #TurtleDay.

Tortoise Rescue, a non-profit organization, shared their excitement about celebrating World Turtle Day 2022. On their World Turtle Day Twitter page, Tortoise Rescue encouraged everyone to donate for the welfare of these lovely cold-blooded creatures.


23 May World Turtle Day. Save The Turtles.

A store named Bonafide for #WorldTurtleDay was open from 6th April. This organization sold products labeled as celebrated, along with showing a turtle.

On March 8, the World Turtle Day organization raised awareness about not purchasing a turtle or tortoise. This was because, in that way, these creatures are removed from the wild and the global demand increases. This could lead to more illegal trading.

Besides the dates of celebrations, the American Tortoise Rescue worked every day to find new ideas for raising awareness and influencing individuals to participate in conserving our oldest living creatures.

World Turtle Day 2023

We celebrated World Turtle Day 2023 with a variety of events and activities aimed at raising turtle conservation awareness.

Turtles are amazing creatures deserving of love and protection, just like cats and dogs, so the theme for World Turtle Day 2023 was “I Love Turtles.”

A spotted turtle population survey was conducted at the John Ball Zoo in Michigan. The project involved counting, marking, and measuring spotted turtles at eight sites, contributing to long-term conservation efforts.

The Wildlife Center of Virginia marked the day by focusing on their rehabilitation work with turtles. Turtles that had been kept at the center to recover from injuries were released back into the wild. Their ongoing efforts include treating and rehabilitating injured turtles, including Eastern River Cooters and other native turtles.

Unfortunately, the day also brought sad news. The last known female Yangtze giant softshell turtle was found dead. Yangtze giant softshell turtles are critically endangered, and only two males are left. There is a pressing need to continue conservation efforts in light of this event.

Also Read: What Do Turtles Do for The Environment?

World Turtle Day 2024

The World Turtle Day 2024 celebration and awareness-raising activities will take place at several exciting locations throughout the world.

American Tortoise Rescue (ATR) is hosting a global celebration with the theme “Let’s Party.” They encourage people worldwide to participate by sharing photos and videos on social media using the hashtag #WorldTurtleDay. People from everywhere can also participate in World Turtle Day celebrations by getting an ATR Party Pack that includes coloring pages and turtle facts.

Turtle Survival Alliance is celebrating “Turtle Month” from Earth Day (April 22) to World Turtle Day (May 23). The event highlights the diversity and conservation of 353 turtle and tortoise species over the course of a month. As a registered nonprofit, they are also celebrating their 20th anniversary. Social media campaigns and virtual events will be part of several educational and outreach activities.

Local and International Events: Turtle conservation will be the subject of public education events hosted by local organizations and zoos, such as John Ball Zoo in Michigan. The events usually include Q&A sessions, interactive experiences, and special exhibitions.

Also Read: What Do Wild Turtles Eat and Drink?

How Can We Celebrate World Turtle Day?

You can celebrate turtle day by following ways:

  • Raise awareness about turtle protection in your peer groups.
  • You can also use social media to spread awareness.
  • It is an excellent opportunity to donate some money or time for the preservation of your favorite turtle species. 
  • Global warming through human activities is one of the major reasons for facing the extinction of these species. Hence, we need to restrict those activities that are responsible for causing harm to turtles and tortoise species.
  • Plastic pollution is majorly affecting the ocean ecosystem affecting various species of turtles and tortoises. We should minimize the use of plastic products.
  • You can also coordinate with your friends and organize an event to clean the beaches to reduce marine pollution.
  • Proper waste disposal plays a vital role in minimizing marine pollution.
  • Disposal of chemicals and toxins from factories also needs to be controlled to help the survival of various species of turtles and tortoises. 
  • If you are staying at nearby places of sea beaches, then you can help turtle preservation by switching off unwanted lights
  • Unnecessary lights disturb the natural hatching process of the turtles as they hatch in moonlight during nesting season.
  • Very importantly, say no to turtle products to protect turtle preservation. 
  • You can also plan fun related activities to promote turtle preservation such as turtle-themed party, games like pin the tail on the turtle, cutting a turtle-shaped cake, etc.

Turtles are important creatures of seas and oceans that play a vital role in maintaining the health of flora and the coral reefs of the marine ecosystem. Sea turtles are also helpful in adequately balancing the marine food web.

As we are the ones who are polluting the marine ecology through various activities, hence it is our responsibility to take all the preventive measures to protect such a valuable sea creature. Raise more and more awareness about turtle preservation at an individual level and initiate different events to support World Turtle Day every year on 23rd May.

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