Non-profit American Tortoise Rescue (ATR) is “shellebrating” its 20th annual World Turtle Day on May 23 with a virtual gathering on social media. This year’s theme, “Save Me,” focuses on live animal markets and the ongoing threat to endangered turtles and tortoises throughout the world.

ATR founded World Turtle Day to educate people about the urgent need to protect these magnificent, rapidly-disappearing creatures. Over half of the 356 known turtle and tortoise species are threatened or already extinct, making them some of the world’s most endangered vertebrates.

The event comes amid our planet suffering the devastating effects of human interference with wildlife. After surviving for over 200 million years, turtles and tortoises are disappearing due to human activities and their impact on the environment, with countless creatures falling victim to illegal hunting, the exotic pet and live meat trades, and habitat destruction due to climate change.

“This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are encouraging those who want to join the ‘shellebration’ to do so virtually,” ATR co-founder and executive director Susan Tellem said in a press release. “Even though we can’t meet in person, we can show our love of these beautiful creatures by enjoying experiences together through social media.”

Join the World Turtle Day discussion on Facebook and Instagram, where you can download a turtle-themed “party pack,” find fun activity suggestions, enter to win turtle-themed prizes, and interact with others who are passionate about saving turtles and tortoises.

Galapagos tortoise