We all know the age-old story of the tortoise and the hare, but we should not actually race turtles.

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Slowest Race Ever

Did you know turtle racing was a real thing?  It's true! There are many events around the midwest where people, well, race turtles.  Turtle racing is popular because it's kind of ironic.  Turtles aren't known for their speed, so it's funny to let them go and see who crosses the finish line first.  As funny as these turtle races may sound, the reality of what they do to turtles is no laughing matter.

CANVA
CANVA
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Humane Indiana Wildlife

Humane Indiana Wildlife is a wildlife rehab in Valparaiso, Indiana.   They post a lot of great information about midwestern wildlife.  They recently made a post talking about turtle racing, as they've noticed a few turtle racing events pop up around their community.

Green turtle
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There are several reasons why turtle racing is cruel, even though you may think it is harmless.   Unnecessarily handling turtles puts the animal at risk for diseases they may not normally be exposed to.  Taking turtles out of their own homes is also never recommended as turtles know their territory extremely well, and if they are taken out of their home, they will search to try and find it again, and sometimes even die in the process.

Stephen Harris/Townsquare Media Hudson Valley
Stephen Harris/Townsquare Media Hudson Valley
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Here's what Humane Indiana Wildlife says about turtle racing in their Facebook post:

Let's talk turtle races... Turtle racing is typically a summer tradition in which participants find turtles from local ponds, paint numbers on their back, and place them in a circle or along a runway with other turtles of various species. The 'winner' is the turtle that crosses over the finish line first. These turtles are them returned back to the wild in some cases, kept as pets in others.

Turtle racing, which has been occurring in our community as of late, is a controversial practice as it poses several threats to our local turtle populations. Removing turtles from their territory is never recommended as it is stressful for that individual animal. These turtles are then exposed to any number of diseases and ailments by handling them ourselves, as well as, putting them in close proximity with other turtles, who may or may not be healthy. Any situation that brings multiple animals togethers, such as this practice, has the potential for disease transmission among individuals.
Turtles navigate using the sun as an east west clock, and some species have magnetite in their brains, or cryptochromes in their eyes to feel/see earth magnetics and understand where north is. Once they imprint a territory, they know exactly where they are going and where they have been too! For instance, studies show that they will hibernate within one meter of where they were the year before. When turtles are removed from their territories, they get distressed and may stop eating as they try to return home, or may die trying as they journey to find home. Even if they find hibernation and feeding grounds, without a map of the area they are in, this success may not be long lasting
The moral of this story is that while turtle racing has been a time honored tradition of summer months, it is one that puts already declining turtle populations at risk and, at best, is inhumane to those being transported and used for sport. Please reconsider the next time you are invited to participate in such events or before even attending. Your local turtle populations will thank you for it!
It's best to just leave wildlife alone and let them be.  Turtle racing may seem fun and harmless, but it's just not worth what it does to the animals.  Do you want to help turtles?   If so, here's an article all about ways to help them cross the road if necessary, and here's another article about why you shouldn't paint turtles (this is a real thing people do).

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