Observed annually on May 23, World Turtle Day was started by American Tortoise Rescue (ATR) in an effort to curb declining tortoise and turtle population numbers. Habitat destruction, the exotic food industry and the international and often illegal pet trade are the primary culprits that have put many species of turtle on the Endangered Species list. This year, we're taking a look at some turtle news from across the globe to give you a snapshot of the state of these threatened animals.

The Good

Conservation effort in Bangladesh are paying off as the country recently recorded the highest number of olive ridley turtle eggs in a single nesting season. Just over 7,500 eggs at 58 different nests were counted representing an increase of 30% compared to last year. 

Nesting grounds created on beaches make it easier for female turtles to come ashore and lay their eggs safely. Image by M.A. Shuhag

This increase is largely due to concerted efforts from conservation groups working with local communities to mitigate threats such as habitat destruction, noise and light pollution and human persecution.

The Bad

Turtle conservation took a major blow last month when a shelled carcass belonging to the last known female Yangtze giant softshell turtle turned up on the shores of Vietnam's Đồng Mô Lake. As a result, the population of these critically endangered freshwater animals has been reduced to just two males – one that lives in China's Suzhou Zoo and another that likely lives alone in Đồng Mô Lake. 

Scientists discovered the female in 2020 and were carefully monitoring her movements in the hopes that she might mate with the male providing a much-needed boost to the meagre population. Sadly, this did not happen and researchers have confirmed that the carcass found recently is indeed that of the known female. 

The female Yangtze giant softshell turtle captured in 2020. Image credit: WCS Vietnam

"It is the same individual that we’ve been monitoring in recent years," Tim McCormack, director of the Asian Turtle Program for Indo-Myanmar Conservation told TIME. "It’s a real blow ... It was a large female that obviously has great reproductive capacity. She could have potentially laid a hundred eggs or more a year," he added, pointing out that it's unclear how the female died.

Although once abundant throughout the Yangtze River and surrounding freshwater ecosystems, the species has been extensively hunted for meat and has lost much of its historical habitat.

While it is hoped that more Yangtze giant softshell turtles are hiding out in the depths of Đồng Mô Lake, scientists are skeptical and it's possible that the recent death of the female has sealed the fate of the world's largest freshwater turtle species

The Ugly

Okay, calling the now-famous 'Chonkosaurus' snapping turtle ugly is a little harsh (especially considering the presence of the reptile is a positive marker of an improvement in the health of the Chicago River). The hefty snapper was spotted by Joey Santore, a self-taught botanist, who was kayaking along the river with a friend when he spotted the turtle. Santore uploaded a video of the sighting online where it was met with much fanfare.

 “This thing was obviously very ecologically successful here. It was thriving, and finding plenty to eat. I didn’t expect to see that so close to downtown Chicago. And there was another one there too,” Santore told NBC News

According to Nick Wesley, the executive director of Urban Rivers, sightings of snapping turtles have become common place as conservation efforts have vastly improved the ecology of the once-polluted waterway.

Header image: Florida Fish and Wildlife