Save the turtles!

Published 5:21 pm Tuesday, September 7, 2021

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To the Editor:

A Korean proverb maintains that “a turtle travels only when it sticks its neck out.” An unknown writer asserts that “turtles are greater than baby nephews, because it’s ok to drop a turtle.”

According to Aesop, “slow and steady wins the race.” Author Alex Haley posited, “Anytime you see a turtle up on top of a fence post, you know he had some help.”

Dr. Seuss stated, “And the turtles, of course all the turtles are free, as turtles and, maybe, all creatures should be.”

In The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway wrote, “Most people were heartless about turtles because a turtle’s heart will beat for hours after it has been cut up and butchered. But the old man thought, I have such a heart too.”

The aforesaid turtle quotes remind me of why it is imperative for us to have compassion for turtles (existed for millions of years) and respect the roles they play in the ecosystem. Overall, twenty species of turtles, belonging to six different families, inhabit North Carolina. ( Yet, turtles are threatened in many ways. For example, the destruction of turtles’ habitats, like aquatic habitats, is a major concern of many conservationists.

Each year, thousands of turtles are crushed by motor vehicles on North Carolina roads and highways. Conservation biologist James Gibbs, with the State University of New York in Syracuse, echoed the urgency of protecting turtles when he said, “For the fleet of foot, like deer or rabbits, traffic is not as much of an issue. But these ground-hugging animals are much more vulnerable.”

Moreover, Gibbs found that turtle populations in the Great Lakes region, Northeast, and Southeast suffer at least a ten percent annual kill rate from road kills. Gibbs believes the kill rate is so serious that it can deplete turtle populations.

By the way, per ABC News, Amanda Onion shared some of Gibbs’ turtle research. She said that Gibbs, before making the aforesaid conclusions, considered three main factors: the number of roads in the U.S.; traffic density; and the speed—or lack thereof—with which turtles cross the two-tire width kill zone of a road.

On a recent trip to my mother’s home in Indian Woods (Windsor), I saw a turtle struggle to cross the road to avoid traffic. I safely pulled over to the right side of the road and relocated the turtle out of harm’s way. It would be encouraging to know that other individuals do the same thing.

Be advised that some motorists intentionally drive on top of turtles as if they believe that killing turtles is a game. Shame on them! Further, I have heard of many stories where, back in the day, some residents would kill turtles for meals. Turtle soup is considered a delicacy in various areas of the world.

Keith Cooper