________________ CM . . . . Volume XXI Number 3 . . . . September 19, 2014


Saving Turtles: A Kid's Guide to Helping Endangered Creatures.

Sue Carstairs.
Richmond Hill, ON: Firefly Books, 2014.
64 pp., pbk. & hc., $9.95 (pbk.), $19.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-77085-290-7 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-77085-434-5 (hc.).

Subject Headings:
Turtles-Juvenile literature.
Turtles-Conservation-Juvenile literature.
Endangered species-Juvenile literature.

Grades 4-8 / Ages 9-13.

Review by Gillian Richardson.

***½ /4



Turtles are in crisis. Of the more than 300 species worldwide, about half are currently threatened with extinction. Freshwater, marine and land turtles are all affected. The situation in Asia - where nearly 80% of freshwater turtles have been lost in the past decade - is so serious that it even has a name: the Asian Turtle Crisis.

Faced with this dire situation, many governments, scientists and concerned individuals have come together to save the turtles. But in order for their efforts to succeed, people must first understand the problem. ... you'll learn how habitat loss, habitat fragmentation, pollution, harvesting for food and the pet trade, and road and fishing deaths continue to threaten turtles around the world. You'll also meet some of the most threatened turtles on the planet.

Among reptiles, turtles are probably the most familiar to children who have spent any time near wetlands. And their habits and physical features are well known: slow speed, ability to hide within a protective shell, cold blooded, found on land and in water. What many children may not realize, though, is that turtles are in serious danger of extinction mainly as a result of human activities that create pollution, loss of habitat, threats to reproductive success, overharvesting for food or as pets, and high mortality on the roads that turtles try to cross. Those concerns have prompted the author, a veterinarian, chief medical officer at the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre and educator, to write this book to inform young readers about actions being taken on behalf of the world's threatened turtles, and to inspire them to get involved with local conservation efforts.

      After a brief introduction to this reptile that has been around longer than dinosaurs existed and that has adaptations to ensure its survival in a wide range of climates, readers are given some basic turtle facts. A double page spread includes a graphic to explain turtle anatomy (including perhaps little known details such as their being able to see in colour and having nerve endings in their shells so they feel pain if injured). The world's oldest, rarest, largest and smallest turtles are described. Threats to turtle populations are explained next, with habitat loss being the worst. Two pages are devoted to a map showing where the top 25 endangered turtles and tortoises are found, and photos of them with names and specific countries.

      The next five chapters offer information about rescue, treatment and release, and headstarting (harvest, incubation and hatching of eggs that would otherwise be lost in the wild). One chapter deals exclusively with sea turtles and the efforts of marine conservation organizations to protect their nesting sites. Methods of monitoring turtles are also described: radio transmitters, ecopassages under roads, training poachers to use their skills instead for turtle conservation are all included. Education is stressed as a key tool, along with conservation programs around the world. Closer to home for a young reader, there are ways to get involved to save turtles - e.g. encouraging the use of 'turtle crossing' signs, not buying turtles as pets. There's a Glossary to help with unfamiliar terms, and a list of resources that fills a whole page.

      Saving Turtles uses excellent quality photos and captions to help readers understand the critical nature of the issues affecting turtles. The details of treating injuries, with graphic illustrations, are thorough, highlighting the source and extent of the problems. They are presented in clear, straightforward language. Although the turtle as a species may not have changed much in over 200 million years, the world they live in certainly has. However, the book does not dwell directly on the causes or remedies for such problems as pollution or habitat loss. Rather, beyond the few basic facts that form the usual knowledge about turtles, it stays closely focused on its purpose, that of stressing the urgency of the work that is ongoing to protect these long living creatures. Readers learn, for instance, that few turtle eggs survive to maturity, a battle the turtle cannot win alone. Much of the book looks at turtles from a global perspective, but Canadian children will find websites to learn about conservation projects in their own province being carried out not only by scientists but ordinary concerned citizens too.

      This valuable resource will fascinate young nature lovers and will add to their knowledge about a common reptile many will encounter. But its forte is the message for youngsters (for everyone) about the need to work now to save this species.

Highly Recommended.

Gillian Richardson is a freelance writer living in BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

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