Turtles are reptiles of the order Testudines, most of whose body is shielded by a special bony or cartilaginous shell developed from their ribs. “Turtle” may either refer to the Testudines as a whole, or to particular Testudines which make up a form taxon that is not monophyletic — see also sea turtle, terrapin, tortoise, and the discussion below. The order Testudines includes both living and extinct species. The earliest known turtles date from 215 million years ago, making turtles one of the oldest reptile groups and a more ancient group than lizards and snakes. About 300 species are alive today, and some are highly endangered.
Like other reptiles, turtles are ectotherms — varying their internal temperature according to the ambient environment, commonly called cold-blooded. Like other amniotes (reptiles, dinosaurs, birds, and mammals), they breathe air and do not lay eggs underwater, although many species live in or around water. The largest turtles are aquatic. The upper shell of the turtle is called the carapace. The lower shell that encases the belly is called the plastron. The carapace and plastron are joined together on the turtle’s sides by bony structures called bridges. The inner layer of a turtle’s shell is made up of about 60 bones that includes portions of the backbone and the ribs, meaning the turtle cannot crawl out of its shell. In most turtles, the outer layer of the shell is covered by horny scales called scutes that are part of its outer skin, or epidermis. Scutes are made up of a fibrous protein called keratin that also makes up the scales of other reptiles. These scutes overlap the seams between the shell bones and add strength to the shell. Some turtles do not have horny scutes. For example, the leatherback sea turtle and the soft-shelled turtles have shells covered with leathery skin instead. Turtles are arguably the most endangered of all the species that are facing threats of extinction. Though they have deep roots in the history of civilization, they sadly do not find a safe habitat for co-existing with the more active creatures. The serious threats of extinction have propelled a rescue organization to declare May 23 as the World Turtle Day in 2000. Sea turtles are not your typical party animals, but this month they have a lot to celebrate. On this date people express their appreciation for turtles and tortoises. Along with the expression of appreciation, they must also pledge to themselves that they would contribute in any which way to help these poor creatures fight strongly from being doused in the sand of time.
Turtles have long been a favorite of children. They are ubiquitous in fable-books as the one who wins the race against his fancier opponent, the rabbit. Children love to cheer the turtle after its mythic stroll over the finishing line while the rabbit made a mad, last minute dash. They find lots of curious allurements under the heavy dome of its shell. They wait for minutes at the reptile park to catch the turtle peep its head out. They love the humor-coated, somewhat stupid look in its eyes. And most of all, they love its languorous stroll from one spot to another. The turtle certainly is an idiosyncratic creature.
However, the privilege of watching a live turtle can be denied to the generation next if we do not brush up our pollution control efforts. Fishing in the high seas has taken a huge toll on the lives and habitats of turtles. The enormous nets cast in the water by the fishermen strangle, injure and sometimes cause untold misery to the harmless turtle. Pollution in the form of industry refuse also goes a long way in causing damage. They infect the digestive tracts of the turtle and acts as poison. Plastic refuse chokes the turtle. World Turtle Day is the occasion on which we must be conscious of these facts and make the world more turtle-friendly. Another cause of concern for World Turtle Day enthusiasts is the healthy sign of more homes keeping turtles as pets. Grey traders transport turtles unscrupulously to meet the demand and many unlucky turtles die in transit. Moreover, people are not aware of how to bring up a turtle as pet. Hence, the brunt of neglect and wrong handling falls on the hard shells of the turtle. Lack of awareness can also result in human illness, because turtle, like all reptiles, carry bacteria that cause life-threatening human diseases.
The powers-that-be must ensure that laws are made more stringent to keep the hopes of the turtle alive. People must spread the awareness on World Turtle Day how everyone can make a significant contribution toward protecting the turtle. We must put the hard shell back in its place. Fable had made the turtle victorious; its time we provide the turtle with sympathetic conditions to continue its slumberous walk upon the face of earth.