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Turtely Enough for the Turtle Club?

By Czarina Nafarrate, Program & Content Coordinator

Did you know that nearly ALL sea turtles are listed as endangered? Their habitats are quickly disappearing, threatening their safety and ultimately, their existence. Project Peril, a signature program of, is committed to saving these species by supporting holistic and hands-on wildlife conservation efforts.

Today is World Turtle Day. This annual day of observance was created to encourage people to celebrate and protect turtles and tortoises around the world. Among the many types of turtles and tortoises, we found plenty of reasons to admire these reptiles.


Some turtles’ gender is predicted by temperature.

The temperature of their environment affects the sex of a hatchling. If the sand is warm, the hatchlings are female, colder sand means male hatchlings. Unfortunately, due to rising temperatures, there are not enough male sea turtles per females, contributing to the decline in species numbers, according to the Sea Turtle Conservancy.

Turtles and tortoises come in all shapes and sizes.

The largest is the leatherback turtle, a member of the sea turtle species. According to the World Wildlife Federation, it can weigh up to 1,500 lbs. and can grow to over 5 feet long. The smallest is the speckled Cape tortoise. Its shell measures a little over 3 inches and it weighs about 5 ounces, according to the San Diego Zoo.

“Turtle” and “tortoise” are NOT interchangeable.

Though they are part of the same family, turtles and tortoises are not the same. In fact, their habitats vary greatly.

Gray Turtles

Turtles spend most of their lives in water.  Sea turtles rarely leave the ocean, emerging only to lay their eggs, while freshwater turtles will occasionally emerge to sunbathe.

Desert Tortoises

Tortoises, on the other hand, are land animals and are not equipped to swim or breathe underwater. They often dig burrows to rest in when it gets too hot and will lay their eggs in sunny patches of soil.

There is a type of animal that can thrive in both land and water and those are called terrapins and can be found near rivers and swamps.

They’re old!

Turtles have been around for more than 200 million years. The earliest known turtle fossils are from the Triassic Period and were found to be, anatomically, nearly identical to modern turtles according to the Animal Diversity Web.

Tortoises and turtles are also known for their long lifespans ranging from 50 to 200 years! Jonathan the tortoise is 187 years old and is currently the oldest living terrestrial animal in the world!

Jonathan (left) with a friend in his native St. Helena. 1886

They’re everywhere!

Turtles and tortoises can be found on every continent, except for Antartica. Turtles are very adaptive and though they’re known to prefer warmer climates, there has been sightings of the Blanding’s turtle swimming under ice in the Great Lakes region.

Our oceans need them!

Sea turtles are fundamental to marine life. They maintain the health of seagrass beds and coral reefs that benefit other species such as shrimp, lobster, and tuna.


You can help protect turtles and tortoises by respecting their habitats, working against climate change, and supporting the Project Peril efforts.

Learn more about how you can help here.