May 23rd, 2017, was World Turtle Day! Virtually unchanged since dinosaurs first roamed the earth, turtles have inhabited the earth for 220 million years. Globally, there are an estimated 320 species found on every continent and in every ocean except Antarctica and its surrounding waters. The southeastern United States is home to 42 species of turtle (Virginia has 24 species and subspecies) and second only to Southeast Asia in turtle diversity.
Unfortunately, nearly 50% of the world’s turtle species are threatened with extinction from habitat loss to collection for the pet trade and foreign food markets. The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries is doing their part in helping conserve turtles and are actively involved in several turtle projects with state, federal and private partners.
To learn more about Virginia’s turtles and what you can do to conserve this fascinating group of animals, you can obtain a copy of A Guide to the Turtles of Virginia at ShopDGIF.com!
Article and photos by J.D. Kleopfer, Herpetologist, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.