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American Tortoise Rescue


About Us

Marshall & Susan at Prop 2 humane farming event.


We have been rescuing and rehabilitating turtles and tortoises for almost 20 years. 
American Tortoise Rescue is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization founded in 1990 to provide for the protection of all species of tortoise and turtle.  We offer permanent sanctuary to abandoned and lost tortoises though we no longer do adoptions.  Special needs turtles and tortoises that cannot be placed stay in the care of American Tortoise Rescue for the remainder of their lives.

American Tortoise Rescue also acts as a national clearinghouse for information about the care, feeding, and rehabilitation of endangered and captive-bred tortoises. In addition, we work to abolish "live market" slaughter of turtles, the illegal sale of hatchlings and turtles under four inches, the cruel importation and exportation of a variety of species. We also work to protect the desert tortoise from collectors, off-road vehicles, and loss of habitat. You can read more about immediate threats in Turtles In Danger.
Achievement Highlights

Since its inception, American Tortoise Rescue has rescued well over 3,000 turtles and tortoises of all species with 70 percent being land tortoises and the remainder water turtles.  The in-house population "floats" at about 125.

Our other achievements include:

  • Implementing a national campaign to stop the sale of a specific species of tortoise called sulcatas, which are being mistreated and sold illegally throughout the U.S.
  • Helping to stop the cruel sale of turtles and other exotic animals in an section of Los Angeles called Santee Alley.  Because of our video presentation before the Animal Control Commission, officers now continually monitor the situation and make arrests.
  • Bringing to light the cruel sale of water turtles in asian markets throughout the US. These animals were kept in unsanitary, cruel conditions including upside down, without food, water, or shade.
  • Creating a campaign called Turtle Ambassadors to teach awareness among school children about turtles and tortoises.
  • Developing a national campaign to stop the sale of reptiles in pet stores.
  • Producing a series of videos about turtles and tortoises, which is distributed to media and other places with large audiences.
Our History

Located in Malibu, CA, American Tortoise Rescue was founded by Susan Tellem and Marshall Thompson, a husband and wife team, whose avocation is fostering humane treatment of all animals and reptiles. They decided to devote their free time to the rescue of these gentle creatures after adopting two captive-bred desert tortoises hatchlings. The sanctuary has expanded rapidly as people all over the world have heard of our work.

About the founders

Susan is also a partner in Tellem Worldwide, a public relations agency.   She is voting member of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, as well as a member in good standing of the Public Relations Society of America.  She graduated from Mount St. Mary’s College as an RN and completed graduate work in communications at UCLA where she was an extension instructor for more than 10 years.  She also served as an adjunct professor at Pepperdine University, is a retired LAPD Reserve Officer Specialist, a member of CERT and serves as a Public Safety Commissioner for the City of Malibu.  Tellem raised four children and now spends 12 hours a day on turtle issues and 12 hours a day running her PR agency.


Marchall is a writer and producer who heads prvideo.tv  His more than 25 years of experience in video and television includes roles as director of photography, production manager, writer, producer and director for such clients as ESPN, ABC Wide World of Flying, 20th Century Fox, PBS and Telepictures.  Thompson also served as segment producer for the MGM show "LAPD - Life on the Beat."  Thompson is a member of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, International Television Association (ITVA) and the International Documentary Association (IDA). Thompson did his graduate work in television and film at San Diego State.  He speaks Spanish, Italian and French.  He just finished producing an entire animal series for kids called Alphabet Animals. 



Let us know if we can help....tellemthompson.JPG tellemthompson.JPG

if you are a teacher, in animal control or animal services, a reptile enthusiast, a volunteer or someone who wants to help the world learn more about turtles and tortoises.  Email info@tortoise.com 



Our Location

American Tortoise rescue, 23852 Pacific Coast Hwy, #928, Malibu, CA  90265 (not shelter address)

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