American Tortoise Rescue

“Turtles are moving quickly to extinction.”

Every day thousands of tiny turtles are imported illegally into the US to be sold as throwaway pets in downtown markets. With very little food, no education on how to care for them and sitting for hours in the hot sun, some turtles die or are eventually abandoned by their owners. While turtles aren’t your typical warm and fuzzy house pet, they can live for over 80 years so caregivers must not forget to take care of their turtles long after they are gone.

What is American Tortoise Rescue?

From Susan Tellem, Founder of American Tortoise Rescue

American Tortoise Rescue (ATR) is certified by state and federal agencies as a nonprofit 501(c) (3) corporation founded in 1990 to provide for the protection of all species of tortoise and turtle. We offer permanent sanctuary to abandoned and lost tortoises, as well as those that are confiscated from law enforcement and require temporary housing. Foundlings that cannot be adopted because of ill health remain in the care of American Tortoise Rescue for the remainder of their lives. ATR has saved more than 3000 turtles and tortoises since its inception.

The turtles are a variety of species, many of which are protected, endangered or threatened in California as well as all 50 states. ATR rehomed a water turtle flown here from American Samoa in a passenger seat in order to save its life since it was to be euthanized there where this type of turtle is not indigenous. Calls come from private individuals, the SPCA, public animal control/shelters, US Fish & Wildlife confiscations, Department of Health Services, US Park Service, California Wildlife Center, California Fish & Game, and so on.

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

American Tortoise Rescue acts as a national clearinghouse for information about the care, feeding and rehabilitation of endangered and captive bred tortoises. In addition, ATR is an advocacy group working to abolish “live market” slaughter of turtles, the illegal sale of hatchlings or any turtle under four inches by vendors, the cruel importation and exportation of a variety of species and to protect the desert tortoise from collectors, off-road vehicles and land grabs by large companies and the military. Currently we are working to stop the sale of illegal hatchling turtles in mercados, at swap meets and fairs, as well as in pet stores. Our undercover video shows very dramatic footage of our work.

Many of the turtles and tortoises are injured or ill. Problems range from dog bites, amputations, upper respiratory infections, shell rot, starvation, stress, failure to thrive, run over by cars, parasites, worms, predator attacks and other medical problems like liver and kidney diseases. Many of the conditions are caused by owners or ignorant individuals. Some are cruelty cases.

Because turtles are not warm and fuzzy, they are often way down on the list for donations, yet veterinary bills. food and housing are very expensive. Donations are grateful accepted. To make a donation or for more information, contact ATR online at, email us at [email protected]

Connect with American Tortoise Rescue:

Visit the official American Tortoise Rescue Web Site
American Tortoise Rescue on Twitter
American Tortoise Rescue on Facebook

Why did CupcakeCamp LA pick American Tortoise Rescue as a featured charity?

Our volunteers help us clean, build and improve the rescue. We need help getting grants and keeping email lists.

Message from Babette Pepaj, founder of & CupcakeCamp LA Producer

Before I met Susan Tellem, I had no idea turtles lived for 80 years and were in the midst of their own crisis. For years I’ve seen tiny turtles being sold in Downtown LA for the novelty of owning a miniature pet. Seeing those pets in small cages, sitting in the hot sun had always given me the heeby geebies, but I had no idea how illegal it was and dangerous for the tiny reptiles.

It’s organizations like Susan’s American Tortoise Rescue that educate us on the ethical treatment of animals and to be more aware of the world around us.

The American Tortoise Rescue is a sanctuary in Malibu, California. What I respect about this particular rescue is that it’s a permanent rehabilitation center and sanctuary. This is not a temporary shelter that sends their animals out as soon as they need to make more space for new animals. Susan and her team have made a commitment to the turtles they have welcomed into their home for the long haul… which could be 80 years!

Susan’s passion for saving these less than cuddly friends is very inspiring. When we decided to create Cupcake Camp in Los Angeles, she was one of the first charities I thought of. Not just because her organization is terrific and it’s a great cause, but because turtles go so unnoticed in society. So the next time you see a small plastic cage holding a tiny turtle, we hope you think of the American Tortoise Rescue.

Not attending CupcakeCamp LA, but want to donate? You can do that here:


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This post was written by admin who has written 56 posts on Cupcake Camp LA.

2 Responses to “American Tortoise Rescue”

  1. Marshall Thompson 17. Oct, 2010 at 11:27 pm #

    Susan Tellem is my way-cute wife and Babette is our way-cute and smart friend and together we are saving the world, one turtle at a time!


  1. Cupcake Camp is coming to Los Angeles on Nov. 20th! | Cupcake Camp LA - 07. Nov, 2010

    [...] people to tell their stories and connect with support services via online social media) and American Tortoise Rescue (which provides sanctuary and advocates to protect turtles and tortoises all over the [...]

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