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. Tortoises are among the animals with the longest lifespan. They help preserve our oceans’ natural productivity.
These gentle animals have been around for 200 million years, yet they are the most threatened faunal group in the world. They are facing threats such as the intentional harvesting, poaching, and smuggling of their species, habitat degradation and improperly discarded waste in feeding grounds and nesting areas, diseases and climate change.
Of the 335 recognized species, 52% are either endangered or extinct. In the Philippines where there are 6 inland turtles and 5 marine turtles, all of these species are threatened. Biologists and other experts predict the disappearance of turtles and tortoises within the next 50 years.
It took the COVID-19 pandemic to open the world’s eyes to the horrors of the live (wet) food markets. According to American Tortoise Rescue, during random testing of market turtles, viruses and diseases have been found. The market animals, including turtles, are stressed, frightened and kept in horrible conditions which makes their immune systems vulnerable to unleashing diseases that affect humans. These diseases have started with humans eating animals – SARS, AIDS, and now COVID-19.
Let’s help protect our sea turtles by taking responsible actions in our everyday lives. Think before purchase and promote sustainable behaviour and practices wherever we go. 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. Proper waste disposal plays a vital role in minimizing marine pollution. Disposal of chemicals and toxins from factories also need to be controlled to help the survival of various species of turtles and tortoises. Very importantly, say no to turtle products (pet, souvenirs, jewelries, and turtle meat) to protect turtle preservation.
As we are the one who is 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.
Let us bring attention to, and increase knowledge for, turtles and tortoises, and encourage human action to help them survive and thrive. Let’s save our pawikans.##