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World Turtle Day

— by Chris Watson

Australian Snake-necked Turtle, Chelodina longicollis. Thomas Ruedas, wikicommons.

G’day wildlife lovers. There are a couple of important dates coming up this week. Sunday the 22nd of May is World Biological Diversity Day, surely a worthwhile observance for us all. This day was declared by the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity and would seem to have plenty of media clout behind it.

Another day which is perhaps less well known and certainly overlooked by those of us in Central Australia is Monday the 23rd of May – World Turtle Day! This day was actually declared back in 1990 by a mob called American Tortoise Rescue, but it has since caught on and spread well beyond the rescue of land tortoises in the continental US. What has all this got to do with us here in The Centre you ask?

Well perhaps not much on the surface of things. If you dig a little deeper though, you will realise that we have some 18 species of threatened or endangered freshwater turtle species here in the Northern Territory according to the IUCN classifications. This doesn’t even count all the endangered sea turtle species that visit our northern coasts through the year, all of which are suffering from the reduction of critical breeding grounds year after year.

You may not think that there is much to be done about this from down in Alice Springs where we don’t even get any turtles – but think again. On Sunday the 22nd of May (the day before World Turtle Day) people will be gathering all around Australia to build sand effigies of their favourite turtles to send a message of support for marine reserves in northern Australia to Environment Minister Tony Burke.

The one thing we have lots of here in Alice is sand! So grab your bucket, grab your spade and head down to your nearest river bed or sand dune. Email the photos of your wonderful creations in support of an issue farther afield from The Red Centre. What better way to show the country what an enlightened, ecologically attuned community we are? Who could argue with a beautiful red sand sculpture of a Mary River Turtle?

Email your photographs to  jenita.enevoldsen@wilderness.org.au and the best efforts will win a Wilderness Society gift pack. They’re not expecting sand sculptures from the desert so any Red Centre entries will surely be well-received.

Additionally, you can post your photos to the facebook page of the Australian Marine Conservation Society and also be in the running for prizes. For details check their World Turtle Day website at;
http://www.amcs.org.au/WhatWeDo.asp?active_page_id=624

For more information visit the Wilderness Society’s World Turtle Day page: http://www.wilderness.org.au/articles/world-turtle-day-2011

The Convention on Biological Diversity Page : http://www.cbd.int/idb/

American Tortoise Rescue: http://www.tortoise.com/