TWINSBURG: On Sunday, Amy Malaczewski and her 12-year-old daughter, Emma, peered into a glass tank and snapped pictures of the yellow-patterned eastern box turtle inside.

Though he is already 40 years old, the turtle isn’t even halfway through his potential 100-year life span, said Janean Kazimir, a naturalist in the Summit County Metro Parks.

“Consider them family heirlooms,” Kazimir said as the Malaczewskis marveled over the turtle’s old age. “They’re a commitment.”

For the people who attended the World Turtle Day celebration at the Liberty Park Nature Center on Sunday, the message from naturalists was clear: Keep wild turtles in the wild, and avoid having the shelled reptiles as pets altogether.

World Turtle Day, which is officially on Wednesday, was created by American Tortoise Rescue to raise awareness about turtles and tortoises. Part of the nonprofit’s message is to avoid buying turtles from pet stores, because it increases the demand for wild turtles, which have declining populations nationally. And turtles’ long life expectancies — some longer than humans — make people more apt to abandon them, so the organization encourages skipping them as pets altogether.

But that didn’t stop some at the event from considering taking one of the mild-mannered creatures home as one of their own.

“I’m thinking about getting a turtle,” Emma said. “I think they’re just cute.”

“It’s a commitment. I didn’t know what kind of commitment it would be,” said Malaczewski of Reminderville, who said the two came to the event to learn more about what it takes to own a turtle.

During the three-hour event, naturalists from the Summit County Metro Parks held short seminars to educate people on turtles and tortoises, especially about their declining population that is due mainly to loss of habitat and difficulties with their reproduction cycle.

Nichole Lally, a park biologist, said the Summit County Metro Parks conducts a number of turtle population studies, including participation in a multicounty effort to track and monitor the rare spotted turtle. All reptile and amphibian populations are declining globally, Lally said, but the spotted turtle population is one that is especially threatened locally — before biologists began tracking them in 2014, one hadn’t been seen in Summit County in more than 10 years.

“The fact that the county has taken on responsibility of this is amazing,” Lally said.

Eight different local turtles and tortoises were on display in tanks at the event, from the prehistoric snapping turtle to the stingray-like eastern spiny softshell.

“Look at the baby one, it is so cute,” exclaimed 5-year-old Violet Thompson from Solon as she and her family looked at the tiny midland painted turtle.

The naturalists know the inevitability of people finding turtles cute and wanting them for pets. So they recommend that if people want a pet turtle, they adopt it from an animal shelter like Herps Alive in Euclid, which rescues turtles and other reptiles and helps them find new homes.

Bruce and Carol Lasko of Hudson got their 9-year-old granddaughter, Addy, a Russian tortoise from Herps Alive for her birthday in March. They agreed that the process was educational and professional, complete with a questionnaire and adoption papers.

Now, Addy has plenty of time to get to know the 15-year-old tortoise Gus, who she finds “likes kale but doesn’t like spinach.” Gus is expected to live until he’s 65.

“He can walk her down the aisle,” Carol Lasko said with a laugh.

Theresa Cottom can be reached at 330-996-3216 or tcottom@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter @Theresa_Cottom.