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Say Hello to the Class of 2016


Important Notice

Thanks so much for wanting to adopt instead of buying a turtle or tortoise from the cruel pet trade. We are no longer doing adoptions and rehoming, just rescue. There are now many rescues throughout the country. You can google turtle rescue and your state or try the links on this handy list. Click http://www.anapsid.org/societies/index.html and scroll down to find a link to your state. If you are in California, go to www.tortoise.org as they have many chapters throughout the state, and you can also try Sacramento Turtle & Tortoise Club here http://www.turtlebunker.com. If you already submitted an adoption form, we will finish that process with you. Please feel free to always ask questions at info@tortoise.com.

We’re Marching Forward – Please Join Us!

We started our turtle rescue in 1990 with two Russian tortoises named Peggy Sue. They were followed in short order by a Cooter named Fluffy, and an Eastern box turtle named Bunkle. The list kept growing until we ended up rescuing and/or rehoming close to 4,000 turtles and tortoises in the U.S. and other countries. When we started, there were no national turtle and tortoise rescues, so we thought why not? In 1996, we received nonprofit status and moved to the current location in Malibu in 1997.

Twenty six years later, we still have Fluffy in our pond, and Bunkle still roams the sanctuary as our mascot. Peggy Sue went to greener pastures, but more than 100 other permanent residents roam our land and swim in the pond. We have never taken a salary or used funds for anything other than the care and feeding of our residents and those waiting for rehoming.

Now there are rescues in every state and many foreign countries. Based on our success with World Turtle Day® launched in 2000, and now celebrated globally, as well as the exploding population of sulcatas, red eared sliders and other turtles and tortoises, we feel it is important to switch gears. We must focus on what other rescues may not have the time or expertise to do – education, media outreach, social media and spearheading the celebration of these wonderful animals through our annual World Turtle Day outreach. I’m a public relations pro, and Marshall is a video producer. Together, we can make a lot of noise. We change hearts and minds through visuals and media coverage. An example of the work we focused on is this article about the plight of sulcatas featured on Buzzfeed.com which has 500 million global visitors each month to its site, a huge audience. We first predicted an onslaught of sulcatas in a press release we issued in October 1998, almost 20 years ago. Let’s not forget the live food markets around the country that sell turtles for food to be slaughtered cruelly once they reach the purchaser’s home. After trying to stop this cruel practice for 17 years, it seems to be heating up again. And almost every day we get an email with complaints about pet stores selling baby turtles illegally. Trying to get action from law enforcement and politicians takes a lot of work, and our calls often fall on deaf ears. It’s tedious, but important.

World Turtle Day was wildly successful this year, and we plan even bigger doings for 2017. Take a look at our case study here https://youtu.be/jwvgpfe13G0. Since American Tortoise Rescue is the go to website for many people looking for information, we are finally working on a new improved mobile website. We launched the existing one in 1996, and it needs a major makeover!

Our sanctuary doors will always be open to turtles that are unadoptable, deformed or have special needs. We just took in an old Gulf Coast turtle who spent many years in loving hands, but her owner is too old to care for her now. With my nursing background, I cannot turn a sad case away. We will still answer every email about rehoming and adoption, but will forward these wonderful opportunities to our colleagues here in the U.S. and all over the globe. Rescues are launching every day, thank goodness, so the turtle population will be in good hands.

We still ask for your help in this new effort, as it will take a lot of time and money to reach our goals. And we set up the Goofy Veterinary Fund for our own turtle hospital needs, as well as individuals with sick turtles and tortoises who cannot afford expensive exotic care. A recent example is a traumatic dog bite that exposed a sulcata’s heart. We helped the owner with a donation to cover part of the $3,000 vet bill.

Rescue is our passion, but there is much work to be done in the field of education. Many turtles and tortoises are dying or are deformed because of lack of proper information about their care. Misinformation is rampant on the Internet. We can begin to fix that. You will continue to hear from us through our regular newsletter and special mailings so you can follow our progress.

Thank you for always being here for us. Please join us in moving forward with this new exciting chapter at American Tortoise Rescue.

Love, Susan and Marshall


This summer, American Tortoise Rescue lost a number of our more memorable old or special turtles. It's been tough, but rather than adopting challenging cases out to new homes, we bring the most seriously deformed or sick tortoises here to the rescue. That often means more heartbreak for us.

This week, a beautiful South American wood turtle named Jamey, who came to us less than a year ago, crossed the Rainbow Bridge after a valiant fight with a prolonged mystery illness. She was lively and loved her worms and the sun. But in April, we found her listless in the middle of the turtle rescue. A week-long stay with Veterinary Angels Medical Center helped her grow a little stronger, but hand feeding and daily soaks, as well as time in the sun with her turtle friends, did not change the fact that she was slowly deteriorating. This week, we saw Dr. Martin at Westlake Animal Hospital, and he recommended euthanasia.  As hard as it was, we did not want to prolong her suffering.

RIP Jamey. We learned a lot from your will to live, and we will always miss you. Jamey is buried in a beautiful place under a tree surrounded by birds, squirrels and other animals. A statue of St. Francis stands watch over her.


Veterinary care for exotics like Jamey is very costly. Her first visit to the vet alone was more than $700. Since we are an all-volunteer nonprofit and have never taken salaries, all monies go to turtles and tortoises in need. Each time we have a medical visit, it depletes our savings. Turtles and tortoises do not get the donation love that cats and dogs and other furry creatures do.

So we are constantly in need of raising funds to care for our shelled creatures. Money raised here will go to veterinary care for our more than 100 resident turtles and tortoises, as well as for individuals who cannot afford care for their turtles or tortoises and qualify for our help.

Please donate to the Jamey Fund for Medical Care on GoFundMe.com so that other turtles and tortoises in need of veterinary support can enjoy the benefits of expert care. Bless you.

Love, Susan and Marshall



Open Letter to Parents Regarding the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Movie

Dear Parents:

We’re asking you to save a turtle’s life and perhaps even your child’s. What can you do to help? Buy Ninja action figures and toys instead of live turtles. This month, your children will be enjoying the extremely popular Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. It’s fun and great entertainment.

We are writing to ask for your help. Since the first movie was released in 1990, hundreds of thousands of live turtles, mostly water turtles called red eared sliders, were purchased for between $10 and $25 after each ninja movie was released. The result?  Many, if not most, were dumped and even deliberately killed or flushed down the toilet.

Children do not realize that real turtles do not fly, perform stunts or do any of the exciting moves fictional movie turtles do. Parents, trying to please their children, purchase live turtles which end up languishing in tanks. Most of these turtles are taken out of the wild and sold through pet stores, breeders, swap meets, flea markets and mercados for profit. Later, the turtles are dumped illegally into rivers and lakes as well as dumpsters, flushed down toilets or relinquished to shelters and overcrowded rescues.  It’s estimated that 90 percent die. 

Turtles carry salmonella which can make a child, the elderly and those who are immune suppressed very, very sick and can even kill them. That’s why turtles less than four inches were banned from sale in the U.S. in 1974 and still are…tiny turtles easily fit into a child’s mouth and children don’t wash their hands after touching turtles. It’s an ugly problem causing nausea, vomiting, bloody diarrhea and even death. We do not recommend live turtles or tortoises for children under 13 because of salmonella exposure.

Turtles have been around for 200 million years and outlived the dinosaur.  Is this the way we want to treat our precious disappearing wildlife? Save a turtle’s life, and perhaps even your child’s.

Please watch this great video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A2PD3kLfYlA.

Thank you.  Susan Tellem and Marshall Thompson, Co-Founders

Mobile messaging powered by Mobilecause


 Five Ways Turtles and Tortoises Say "I Love You!"
1. They smack their lips when they see you coming.
2. They go to bed without prodding.
3. They look right at you.
4. They always look like they're smiling.
5. They swim right up to you.

Join the ATR 'Mobile Loyalty Club' and you'll hear about cool ideas, adoptions, merchandise and contests first! To join



kidkissingturtle.jpgYou see a cute reptile, I see a Salmonella factory. Multiple states, US Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Center for Veterinary Medicine investigated two multistate outbreaks of human Salmonella infections linked to contact with small turtles in 2015. Read more by following this link…http://barfblog.com/2015/10/more-turtles-more-salmonella



Please like us on Facebook at American Tortoise Rescue and follow us on Twitter at @tortoiserescue.  Make our turtles happy!


Happy New Year 2015! Click to see our video message!


Do You Like Shopping at Amazon.com As Much As We Do?

Well, please join the crowd and sign up for Amazon Smile!  Just select American Tortoise Rescue as your charity, and from then on for every purchase you make (it's automatic), we get .05% of the total order.  It's simple.  Want to help?  Just click this link.


Love, Susan and Marshall

Evil Knievel - Resident Troublemaker

American Tortoise Rescue

"Like" World Turtle Day on Facebook!

Welcome to American Tortoise Rescue from Popcorn the Sulcata

Check it out

Download Now! Click Here - Where Have All The Turtles Gone" A PowerPoint Presentation


This is Bunkle, the very first land turtle we rescued in 1990He is the boss of the turtle yard and is a total lady's man.  He is also the rescue's mascot.

Mission Statement


American Tortoise Rescue is a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit dedicated to the protection of turtles and tortoises throughout the world.  

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