Are Turtles Endangered? Sea Turtles, Blandings Turtle, Desert Tortoises




I like turtles.

The Endangered Turtles List is getting longer.  Sad, considering that turtles were in existence in the age of the dinosaurs.  They’ve survived some of the most awful natural disasters our planet Earth has taken.  But now a number of these shelled reptiles are facing their greatest danger: greedy humans.

Among species being watched are sea turtles, the Asian giant soft shelled turtle, American pond turtle, leather back turtles, Blanding’s turtles, Annam pond turtle, Roti snake necked turtle, desert tortoise, red crowned river turtle, and the Coahuila box turtle.

Here, from turtle enthusiast and author Karma Williams, is an expert guest blog you shouldn’t miss:

“The Blanding’s Turtle and Desert Tortoise – Won’t You Help Preserve These Endangered Species?” A Guest Blog by Karma Williams

Perhaps you have already heard of the Russian Tortoise, the Red Eared Slider Turtle, and the Painted Turtle. Perhaps you know that these, and other turtles, are commonly kept as pets. But have you ever heard of the Blanding’s Turtle? Here are some interesting facts about this endangered species.

Blanding’s turtles (Emydoidea blandingii) may look charming to people, with their medium size of six to nine inches in length. Belonging to the semi-aquatic type of turtles, it has a high-domed shell like a box turtle, but its carapace has the shape and size of a football. Their shells are black with yellow spots. The distinctive marks of Blanding’s turtles are their brilliant yellow chins and throats.

Blanding’s turtles are shy and non-aggressive. In fact, the Blanding’s turtle has a tendency to stay at the bottom of its habitat for long a time when it senses danger. Unlike other turtles, they rarely bite, and, aside from being good swimmers, they can also catch live fish. Like most other turtles, they are confirmed baskers, and must sun themselves to dry off and stay warm.

Blanding’s turtles prefer to inhabit areas with low, slow-moving water and with an abundance of aquatic vegetation. Blanding’s turtles are found around swamps, weedy ponds, and marshes throughout North America, in the Great Lakes region, from southern Ontario to Michigan to northern Ohio and Indiana; west from Illinois, Wisconsin, southern Minnesota, Iowa, and northeastern Nebraska. (Benedictine University, 2009)

This species hibernates from late October until early April. After hibernation, mating in Blanding’s turtles usually occurs in April and May, with nesting beginning in early June and ending the same month. The Blanding’s turtle takes quite a while (from 14 to 20 years) to reach sexual maturity. Blanding’s turtles can live for 70 years and are omnivores, feeding on plants, vegetable debris, and fish.

Blanding’s turtles are listed as threatened species in Massachusetts, Illinois, Minnesota, and Iowa, among other states. It is against the law to keep this threatened species in captivity. However, even in the wild, this turtle is in jeopardy.

For example, in New York, a major concern is the devastation of the Blanding’s turtle’s territory due to the building of housing development projects, beach properties, and other summer leisure facilities. These facilities encroach on and destroy the wild habitat of the Blanding’s turtle.

This alarming trend is forcing people to realize that now is the right time to become aware of the importance of keeping the population of these endangered species of turtles. If they become extinct, people will surely notice a negative impact on their ecosystem.

People must follow and enforce the laws strictly to make sure of the Blanding’s turtle’s continued existence. We must take action now to ensure that our children, and our children’s children, see these beautiful creatures not only in pictures, as part of history, but alive, in their natural habitats.

If you want to own a desert turtle (tortoise) there are several facts you need to know before purchasing one. These species are covered by Federal and State Laws, and require a state permit for purchase or sale. They also require proper care and food.

Desert tortoises (Gopherus Agassizii), belonging to the order Chelonia and family Testudinidae, dwell on land. They are high-domed turtles, with elephant-shaped legs, and are found in the Mojave and Sonoran deserts in southwestern Utah, southern Nevada, southeastern California, and western Arizona in the United States. (Lawler, n.d.)

They can attain a shell length of up to 15 inches. Dubbed as the official reptile in the states of California and Nevada (Defenders of Wildlife, 2009), desert turtles (tortoises) keep away from water, except when drinking. Like other turtles, they are ectothermic.

This means that they are cold-blooded creatures, whose body temperatures are not internally regulated, and therefore vary with their surrounding environment. When the ground temperature reaches or even exceeds 140°F, they must burrow into the earth, creating underground holes in which to live, thus avoiding the high temperature.

Large, outdoor housing is required for the desert turtle (tortoise). Make sure that there are no poisonous plants present in the area. Turtle keepers should provide the turtles with protection from the sun and cold, as well as a bowl of water for drinking and soaking. Desert turtles (tortoises) are picky eaters.

What tortoises eat: They eat grass, alfalfa, dandelions, rose petals and leaves, mixed vegetables, carrots, and green veggies. Desert turtles (tortoises) must be fed properly. Malnutrition is one of the primary reasons they become ill. A runny nose and swollen eyes and limbs are obvious signs of illnesses. But they can also exhibit subtle and less obvious signs-any small change in their usual actions may be the first clue that they are in jeopardy.

The desert turtle (tortoise) hibernates in underground burrows from October to February, but do not allow them to hibernate if they are sick or injured. Female tortoises normally lay one or more clutches of 1 to 14 eggs. The incubation period is from 90 to 120 days. A desert tortoise can outlive its keeper because it has a life span of 80 to 100 years.

Unfortunately, the population of the desert turtle (tortoise) is decreasing. Before the early 1950s, their population “reached densities of several hundred tortoises per square mile.” Today, we find no more than 5 to 50 tortoises per square mile. (Lawler, n.d.)

This is due to “vandalism, to raven predation, disease, collections for pets (now illegal), and habitat degradation.” Statistically, female desert tortoises have “low reproductive potential,” with only 2 to 3 surviving hatchlings from every 1,000 births. (Desert Tortoise Preserve Committee, n.d.)

Because the desert turtle (tortoise) is in danger of extinction, Federal and State laws have been enacted to protect it. Buying or selling turtles and tortoises is prohibited today. In the state of California, one must secure a permit for acquisition.

However, if an owner thinks he can no longer care for his tortoise, he must call the concerned local authorities or organizations. It is illegal to release desert tortoises into the wild.

Keywords: are turtles endangered, black, endangered turtles list, green, leather back, russian tortoise, sea turtle, what tortoises eat, what turtles eat

About Brian Alan Burhoe

A Graduate of the Holland College Culinary Course, Brian Alan Burhoe has cooked in Atlantic Coast restaurants and institutional kitchens for over 30 years. He is a member of the Canadian Culinary Federation. Brian's articles reflect his interests in food service, Canadian history, imaginative literature, wildlife writing, animal rights, wilderness preservation and our best friends -- our dogs. See his CIVILIZED BEARS!
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