Why 2.7% of Drivers are Complete Dills

Green living: Help prevent turtle deaths on the road this summer

A recent study conducted by a student from the University of Clemson placed a plastic turtle in the road to see how drivers would respond. Out of the 257 cars observed, 7 went out of their way to hit the turtle.

A professor at Washington University asked his psychology class of 110 students who had intentionally run over a turtle. A whopping 35 owned up to vehicular turtle-slaughter.

A 2007 Canadian Study alternated between a plastic turtle, a plastic snake and a white cup. Of the 1900 cars observed, 2.7% swerved to purposefully hit the plastic creatures with snakes getting it in the head most often.

The perceptions that snakes are gross and turtles are plentiful are false. There are many rare reptile species and snake and turtle numbers are dangerously low. This means that when you go out of your way to mow down defenseless turtles, you are being a complete dill.

And if that’s not enough, the poor ploughshare tortoise, one of the most critically endangered species in the world, recently faced an extinction event. While conservationists bust their butts trying to increase the numbers of these little cuties, a 38-year old Thai man was caught smuggling 54 ploughshares through the Bangkok airport. This represents 13% of the remaining population.

Professor  Grégory Bulté from Carleton University explains:

Why are turtles so vulnerable? 

Worldwide, close to two-third of all turtle species are at some risk of extinction. In Ontario, 7 out of 8 species are on the federal list of species at risk. From an evolutionary point of view, turtles are true survivors. Turtles have been around for 200 millions years. That’s 1000 times longer than we have! And that’s where the problem lies: Its not them, its us… For most of their existence, turtles didn’t have to deal with road mortality and poaching. These sources of mortality are not unique to turtles so why is this a problem? The issue is not so much which turtles are being killed so much as how old are they. Poaching and road mortality targets adult turtles and adult longevity is absolutely essential for the continued existence of turtles.

When it comes to reproduction, turtles are gamblers. They produce lots of young, hoping that some will make it. Take a common snapping turtle, the latest turtle species to make it to the Canadian list of species at risk. A female snapping turtle may lay up to 50 eggs but the probability of a hatchling making it is extremely low. Even without cars and poachers, it’s a tough world out there if your are small, soft and slow. To beat the odds, a female turtle needs a long reproductive life. For our snapping turtle, this could be well over 50 years.  With the added sources of mortality such as roads and poaching, many female turtles die before they’ve had a fair chance to beat the odds and leave surviving young behind. In many areas roads are a particularly severe problem because most turtles which end up on the road are adult females seeking nesting sites. Leaving turtles in nature and helping them to cross the road will make a big difference because each adult is extremely important.

Turtles are an essential part of our environment and ecosystems. They are sweet and mean you no harm so pretty please, leave the poor little guys alone. Cowabunga dude.

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Nikki is an author and writer specializing in green living ideas and tips, adventure travel, upcycling, and all things eco-friendly. She's traveled the globe, swum with sharks and been bitten by a lion (fact). She lives in a tiny town with a fat cat and a very bad dog.

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