Conservation & Initiatives
Research & Veterinary
Keeper For A Day
Partnerships & Affiliates
CANADIAN WETLANDS GUARDIANS REGISTRY
Wetland Guardians is designed to promote wetland awareness, stewardship and protection. Wetland Guardians is composed of a Canada-wide network of people working to protect wetland habitats in their region.
Wetland Guardians can “adopt” a local wetland by entering it into a Canadian-wide registry. Wetlands can be large (>10 Ha) or small (backyard ponds). The registry is a cumulative account of restoration resources for those wanting to protect or create wetlands. Learning from the experience of other communities is the goal of this shared resource. The registry includes a visual account of an existing wetland and a written account of community wetland features with stories, experiences, wildlife sightings and sounds, restoration techniques and protection efforts. Guardians are able to register wetlands they would like to protect on-line, by mail, fax or e-mail. The network created from these registries enables Wetland Guardians to share their wetland creation and protection stories with a Canadian-wide community of stewards striving to improve wetland awareness and conservation. Officially launched in June 2004, there are currently forty-two registered Wetland Guardians.
Resource materials provided to participants include both on-site (at the Toronto Zoo) and off-site workshops, the Toronto Zoo’s Adopt-A-Pond quarterly newsletter and the Adopt-A-Pond Wetland Curriculum Resource Manual. Wetland Guardians are also encouraged to get involved with Ontario Turtle Tally and FrogWatch Canada. It’s a perfect fit!
As a registered wetland changes over time, both naturally and through restoration efforts, so too will the biodiversity of the site. Communication through the on-line database allows others to see and read about other Guardians’ successes and failures.
Our hope is that the Wetland Guardians Registry will offer a unique opportunity to collaborate and share restoration experiences so that people can better understand wetland ecosystems and the role they play in maintaining a healthy environment.
COMMUNITY BASED SOCIAL MARKETING
Previous work by many conservation organizations has focused primarily on informing and educating the public about conservation issues. This was done on the assumption that if a particular level of knowledge could be achieved, positive behavioural changes would follow. However, research suggests that the relationship between knowledge and behaviour is much more complex than this, and often times having knowledge of an issue will not elicit an associated behaviour change. The process of Community Based Social Marketing (CBSM) recognizes the complexity of this relationship, and aims to develop programs that foster a change in behaviour rather than simply a change in attitude. For this reason, the Adopt-A-Pond Wetland Conservation Programme has identified CBSM as a potential tool for changing behaviours related to turtle species at risk.
The process and tools of CBSM allow practitioners to develop marketing campaigns that target a specific group(s) and utilize messaging and approaches that research suggests to be effective for that group. The preliminary step in this process is to identify groups whose lifestyles relate to the threats to turtles and who may be able to undertake actions that can benefit these animals. Adopt-A-Pond has identified waterfront property owners (both private and commercial) and field naturalists as two such groups. In addition to these two groups, several others were identified whose actions may have a less significant impact on turtles but who consist of youth who are committed to environmental literacy and have a high level of enthusiasm, namely eco-schools/eco-camps and girl guides/boy scouts.
Survey and focus group research as well as evaluation of ongoing outreach initiatives and trial programs has allowed Adopt-A-Pond to build audience profiles of each of these groups. These profiles include the probability of individuals engaging in particular behaviours, the impact these behaviours may have on turtles if adopted, the barriers and benefits associated with these behaviours, and the appropriate phrasing and delivery of behaviour change messages. This research has led to increased audience targeting within the Adopt-A-Pond outreach program and in time is anticipated to lead to more involvement in the Ontario Turtle Tally as well as the adoption of behaviours (e.g., the creation of naturalized shorelines, nesting beaches, etc.) that have positive benefits for turtle species at risk. In the future, all program development will be guided by community input and feedback, and as such, should be better designed to have maximum impact and deliver the necessary resources and information that important key groups require.
2009 brought several changes to COTERC and the activity in Costa Rica. We had a PhD student, April Stevens join the team in Costa Rica to study sea turtles. April will be working on the project for three years as a student and has already joined the COTERC board of directors to bring her sea turtle expertise to the table. Global Vision International, (GVI ) continued to keep themselves busy with sea turtles, mammal monitoring and bird nesting studies. An ex-director, Mr. Josh Feltham decided to spend a year at the Caño Palma Biological Station, (the station owned by COTERC in Costa Rica). Josh was able to help with many projects and video much of the activity within the station and life surrounding the station. One lasting result is a top quality elevated board walk running most of the length of the Colibri Trail. The boardwalk will allow observers to visit the forest without disturbing any of the vernal pools along the way. The walk has already proved how important such methods are.
FIRST NATIONS WAYS OF KNOWING PARTNERSHIP: TURTLE ISLAND CONSERVATION
Turtle Island Conservation was developed to promote awareness of the importance of turtle species and the wetlands that sustain them in First Nation communities. The vision of TIC is that Traditional Knowledge will foster and guide communities for generations to come. The mission statement of the program is to develop Ways of Knowing Partnerships. Currently, seven of Ontario’s eight native turtle species are described as being endangered, threatened or of special concern on the Species At Risk (SAR) list. The Ways of Knowing Partnership (TIC) is a program designed to create culturally relevant SAR conservation resources for First Nation partner communities.
By recognizing the importance of Aboriginal TK, the Ways of Knowing Partnership will encourage First Nation communities to protect wetlands and monitor turtle populations on First Nation’s land. The program also seeks to incorporate an understanding of First Nation knowledge into current biodiversity and species at risk recovery strategies.
Turtles are an important cultural teaching tool utilized in many First Nation communities. Through turtle teachings, First Nations people learn their roles, responsibilities and interconnected relationships to all of creation. It is through these teachings (historically oral in nature), that Turtle Island Conservation Partnership (TIC) integrates Traditional Knowledge and Western Science as directed by our FN community mandated advisory board.
There are five defined objectives to guide TIC which are as follows;
- To foster respect for self, community, Mother Earth and the Creator
- To recognize and record significant landscapes valued by First Nations communities
- To integrate Traditional ways of knowing with western science to monitor, protect, respect and restore landscapes, biodiversity and species at risk
- To integrate language, art, and crafts to sustain traditional ways of knowing and living
- To facilitate understanding of diversity of First Nation culture and ways of knowing among non-Aboriginals
Aboriginal youth are vastly underrepresented in the sciences and opportunities are lacking for First Nations (FN) youth to contribute to conservation programs. There are many mentorship opportunities provided within Turtle Island Conservation (TIC) through summer student internships for First Nation youth, training in Species At Risk conservation and First Nation community mapping. The goals of this project are to: a) demonstrate the value of alternative ways of learning and integrate western science and Knowledge (TK) in wetland biodiversity, species at risk and turtle conservation initiatives and b) explore the significance of turtles in North American Aboriginal culture (e.g. creation stories of North America as Turtle Island) as a means of knowing and valuing turtles as a unifying symbol across time and through oral tradition that maintains Aboriginal culture. The goal is to demonstrate that TK can be maintained as a cultural and spiritual perspective as well as a basis for learning while using scientific methodologies to collect and analyze data. We assist our first Nations partners in “mapping” areas of biological, cultural, economic, spiritual and social importance and facilitate the preservation of Traditional Knowledge. As well, non-aboriginal and Aboriginal cultures can value turtles and be a source of knowledge for First Nations cultural and ecological concepts that support conservation.
Our focus has been Traditional Knowledge and science surrounding the turtle and wetland biodiversity and species at risk (SAR) and their habitats. The current direction of Turtle Island Conservation, Ways of knowing Partnership includes Traditional Knowledge teachings that focus on 7 Generations (conservation and sustainability practices), 13 Moons teachings (Lunar Calendar) and the interconnectedness of all creation on Mother Earth. Awareness of SAR utilizes the Ways of Knowing Guide and Ways of knowing Map along with language based resources, outreach presentations, and cross cultural awareness presentations off site and on site with the First Nation Art Garden that celebrates Turtle Island and creation stories. . Day and overnight Knowledge Camps provide accces to Elders, ceremony and knowledge to immerse participants in FN world views. The on-line mapping is a geo referenced mapping of significant cultural and natural landscapes that provides our FN partners with the tools to archive community knowledge in their own voice.
A number of resource materials have been created to support wetland biodiversity and species at risk conservation some of wich contribute to language preservation and usage in Mohawk (Haudenosaunee) and Ojibway (Anishnaabe) communities. These resources include native language based turtle crossing signs, Ontario frog and Toad Calls CD, language based identifier guides, the Ways of Knowing Guide and Walking with Miskwaadesi curriculum unit. The programme targets all Ontario FN communities and Turtle Island Conservation is currently partnered with Wasauksing, Dokis, Rama, Christian Island and New Credit First Nations along with the Aboriginal Teacher Education Program at Queen’s University (ATEP).
Many calls to donate unwanted pet fishes to the Zoo are received throughout the year. As it is not possible to hold them here, the Toronto Zoo works with a diverse group of partners including: the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM); Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR); Canadian Association of Aquarium Clubs; and the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council on a home hobbyist awareness program. This program tries to relocate unwanted aquaria species by distributing flyers Ontario-wide through schools and pet shops and by establishing a website resource. By reducing the number of foreign aquarium fish and plants that are released by owners into Canadian ecosystems, the Fish Rescue program hopes to avoid problems with these introduced species that out-compete and prey on native flora and fauna.
FrogWatch Ontario is a community-based amphibian-monitoring program designed to increase awareness of the importance of local wetlands and amphibian populations. Since the inception of FrogWatch Ontario in 1999, Environment Canada, with assistance from Adopt-A-Pond, has created a FrogWatch program in every other province in Canada. Additionally, the USA and Australia have now started similar programs using FrogWatch Canada as a model.
The main objective of FrogWatch Ontario is to educate and empower local landowners, school classrooms, corporations, and most importantly, you, to visit a favorite wetland habitat two to three times a week in the spring and early summer months and record what species of frogs and toads you hear calling. Male frogs or toads of every species call or ‘sing’ distinctively in the spring to attract mates. Learning these calls allows every-day citizens to become scientists, giving them the ability to record their observations and report them to a central depot. Educational materials including posters, colour field identification guides and frog and toad call CDs are given to each FrogWatch participant. Data is submitted online or through the mail, organized in a central database stored by Environment Canada, and then forwarded to the Natural Heritage Information Centre (Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources) for the creation of distribution maps and tracking of population dynamics throughout the province. Information about the presence or absence of frogs and toads in Ontario’s wetlands will ultimately help scientists determine factors that are affecting amphibian declines at the global level.
Since the beginning of 2010, 375 new people from across Canada have submitted observations, with 59 of those new observers coming from Ontario. To date, FrogWatch Ontario includes 512 registered observers. Observers have registered 754 locations and documented over 10,177 observations! Spring Peepers are the frogs most commonly heard calling, while Blanchard’s Cricket Frogs and Fowler’s Toads are the least likely to be heard. With the passing of every year, the FrogWatch Ontario database continues to grow, as does the awareness for the plight of frogs and toads. Our growing dataset provides the power necessary for scientists to clearly visualize long-term trends in frog and toad abundance.
GREAT LAKES OF CANADA AND MEXICO; Lake Ontario and Lake Xochimilco school to school partnership
This programme partners schools in Canada and Mexico to share their understanding of the importance of water resources in their communities. Threats to the Great Lakes of Canada and the great lakes of Mexico are similar and include water quality, water loss, pollution, chemical and heavy metal sequestering, invasive species, and loss of biodiversity.
Two large neotenic salamanders, the mudpuppy in Canada and axolotl in Mexico, share the waters of these lakes and will serves as a starting point in understanding the importance of watersheds in determining the quality of community water resources.
INTERNATIONAL MIGRATORY BIRD DAY
Toronto Zoo celebrated its 11th annual International Migratory Bird Day this year. Every year visitors come to the Zoo, learn about bird conservation and celebrate the return of our migratory birds. Conservation groups from Ontario join us in talking to visitors and lucky visitors wishing to see the “wilds” of the Zoo get to wander through the “core” woods looking for the elusive migrants hiding in the forest. The lecturer this year was Christina Sharma of CHIRP. Christina talked to people about developing wildlife friendly gardens in your own back yard.. Other people displaying at the Zoo included: Wildlife Preservation Canada, Rouge Park, Scott’s Canada, Toronto Field Naturalists, Project CHIRP and COTERC.
ONTARIO TURTLE TALLY
Ontario Turtle Tally is a community-based turtle-monitoring program designed to increase awareness of the importance of local wetlands and turtle populations. In 2008 the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) listed seven of Ontario’s eight turtle species as Species at Risk (either Endangered, Threatened or of Special Concern), a proportionately higher number than any other group of plants or animals in Canada.
The objective of Ontario Turtle Tally is to educate and empower the citizens of Ontario by providing them with information about each of the province’s turtle species and encouraging them to record data when they see a turtle crossing the road, nesting, or even basking on a log.
The Turtle Tally monitoring protocol is more opportunistic than FrogWatch Ontario; participants are asked to record as much information as possible, but species’ identification and location are the fields of primary interest in our online database. Even if a turtle is seen during a one-time wetland visit, Turtle Tally wants to hear about it!
Educational resources including posters, colour field identification guides and outreach events are provided to participants to promote the skills necessary for identifying turtles in the field (although a decent pair of binoculars is undoubtedly helpful!).
Involvement in the project has increased dramatically since the program began in 2002. In total AAP has received over 3400 submissions from 1227 participants, 472 of whom registered in 2009, and 335 of whom registered before the end of July in 2010 (submissions often include more than one sighting).
Observations of common and rare species reflect, generally, their abundance in Ontario. For example, for records including observations up until July 2010, over 6000 Midland Painted turtles have been observed compared to 372 Blanding's and 102 Spotted turtles. Awareness about the program continues to grow and the number of Turtle Tally outreach events hosted by AAP increases every year. With 2009 proving to be a record-breaking year for participant involvement in Turtle Tally, AAP hopes to continue to help the program establish an ever-increasing body of observers devoted to collecting information on the distribution of turtle species across the province. Turtle Tally entries ultimately help AAP and the provincial government (NHIC) to chart the distribution of species across Ontario and identify turtle "hotspots," or unique areas that should be targeted for conservation efforts.
This year confirmed the presence of a tenth species of crayfish in Ontario. For the first time the spiny-cheek crayfish, Orconectes limosus was collected in eastern Ontario. Numbers of some species seem to have dropped and one other appears to have spread everywhere in southern Ontario. Unfortunately, there is little being done to record what is happening and what effects may come of it. Toronto Zoo studied the crayfish community in the Rouge in 2009. The most apparent changes were seen with two species, Orconectes propinquus and the invasive Orconectes rusticus. It appears that where ever the two species met the native, northern Clearwater crayfish lost ground to the larger more aggressive rusty crayfish. At this time the only purebred Clearwater crayfish that could be found was upstream of a couple barriers (dams and culverts) in the upper reaches of the Rouge. If those barriers are breached, the Clearwater crayfish will disappear from this water system.
Toronto Zoo has joined with other interested parties to create a resource to understand what is happening in these populations. Check out: www.crayfishontario.ca
and see what can be done to help. Toronto Zoo has produced a pamphlet to help people identify the crayfish found in Ontario. In 2007, Toronto Zoo produced a pamphlet to help people identify the crayfish found in Ontario. The pamphlet was then assessed for its usefulness in the field. It has proved to be very helpful and thus in 2009, a second edition has been produced. Rules for the capture and use of crayfish have been updated and can be found in the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources website. Remember that it is illegal to move live crayfish between river drainages.
REDSIDE DACE (Clinostomus elongatus) - Conservation and Community Involvement
The Redside dace is federally recognized as an endangered species (COSEWIC). Since the Redside dace was formerly found in the Rouge River located on Toronto Zoo property, it represents a conservation program in the Zoo’s own backyard. The Redside dace is now a Recovery Plan species and the Zoo is a participant in the development of this program.
The Zoo is undertaking rehabilitation projects for the Morningside Tributary and local rivers. An important component of this project is community involvement. During the spring and summer, the Zoo hosts volunteer days to bring local residents out to the Tributary and encourage them to contribute to conserving their natural resources.
SEAFOOD WATCH PARTNERSHIP
The Toronto Zoo has been a partner of Seafood Watch since 2008. In June 2010, the Zoo’s Marketing and Communications staff hosted its second annual “Seafood for Thought” fundraiser event. Over 350 guests joined the Zoo for the event, which featured sustainable seafood dishes cooked by several of Toronto’s top chefs, as well as speeches and displays that highlighted “sustainable foods” for Torontonians, and the effects bycatch had on marine species such as sharks.
Over 2000 Seafood Watch pocket guides have been given to students participating in the 2010 Great Lakes Outreach Program, and over 4000 have been distributed to zoo visitors at the Conservation Centre and by Zoo volunteers.
In 1997, Monterey Bay Aquarium, California initiated Seafood Watch, a program dedicated to raising awareness on sustainable seafood issues, and encouraging sustainable consumer behaviour. 80% of world fish stocks are overfished, or being fished to capacity. This program categorizes seafood into three levels of sustainability recommendations (Best Choices, Good Alternatives, or Avoid), which are then made available to the public via pocket guides, staff, mobile phone applications, and the Zoo’s website.
The movie Jaws and media sensationalism behind shark attacks detract from the fact that sharks are important components of ocean ecosystems. An annual average of only 4.4 shark related fatalities occurred from 1999-2009. People are more likely to die from other causes such as car accidents, heart disease, and lightning. Upwards of 73 million sharks are harvested per year, 50% of which is due to bycatch. Tuna and swordfish fishery catches can sometimes be 30-100%+ sharks. In most areas, shark populations have decreased by over 90%, including the Northwest Atlantic which borders Canada’s east coast. Removal of top predators such as sharks from the food web causes cascading effects that may result in ecosystem degradation and fishery collapse. A century-old bay scallop fishery has already collapsed due to this, and many other bivalve fisheries may follow. The main economic driver for the shark trade is increasing affluence and demand for shark products, including shark fin soup within ethnic communities.
The Toronto Zoo aims to raise awareness of sustainable seafood and shark conservation issues, dispel myths surrounding sharks, and to ultimately decrease consumption and use of shark products. 2010 is the shark conservation program’s first year, and extensive background research on shark conservation status, shark products (including their health claims), eco-system cascades and impacts of fisheries has been done. In addition, effective social marketing techniques have been researched so future efforts are sensitive to the fact that shark conservation has cultural implications. Early development of the Toronto Zoo’s shark conservation program will focus on promoting Seafood Watch, working with existing international organizations, and collaborating with university environmental and cultural clubs. A great white shark conservation poster has already been made; additional brochures, pamphlets, and a new webpage will be available in the future.
SOCIAL MARKETING AND CHELONIAN SUSTAINABILITY WORKSHOP
The workshop on March 22nd and 23rd, 2010 brought together more than 125 academics, NGOs, and government staff to discuss the process and tools of CBSM and how they can be applied to turtle conservation. Session topics of the two-day workshop ranged from natural history, legislation and threat mitigation to stewardship engagement and effective messaging and communication. As many involved in conservation feel that the time is appropriate to discuss modern techniques and more targeted approaches to conservation programming, presentations on appropriately developing conservation marketing initiatives were beneficial to all in attendance. Throughout the workshop, participants were given the opportunity to ask questions and engage in discussions and activities with fellow practitioners to learn more about best species at risk practices and recent projects.
THE TORONTO BIODIVERSITY GROUP
In 2006, the Zoo joined with other interested parties to help make the people of Toronto aware of the plight of migratory birds in cities. Over a billion birds die annually from colliding with buildings. This group has been working to reduce this problem. Two publications have been produced, one on developing bird “friendly” buildings, and a second on the birds of Toronto. In 2010, the group widened its horizons to include other aspects of the wildlife of Toronto. Publications include reptiles and amphibians, spiders and butterflies. Trees and fishes are also being produced. All work is voluntary and a subcommittee is developed for each of the topics. Zoo staff has had involvement in many of the booklets being produced. The booklets are part of the City of Toronto’s contribution celebrating the Year of Biodiversity.
TURTLE HABITAT FEASIBILITY WORKSHOP
The workshop on February 5, 2009 brought together stakeholders from City of Toronto, Friends of the Rouge, Ministry of Natural Resources, Ontario Streams, Rouge Park, Toronto Zoo, and Toronto and Region Conservation. The objectives of the workshop were to:
- Present and review the scientific analysis and reports from seven years of turtle habitat use research;
- Integrate the knowledge and expert opinion of Rouge Park stakeholders; and
- Refine the recommendations for priority sites and restoration techniques for turtle habitat
Using GIS maps with geomorphologic and habitat layers, a summary report has been created that has identified priority sites for further ground truthing of turtle habitat creation and restoration projects in the Rouge watershed from Steeles Avenue south to Lake Ontario. In partnership with Environment Canada Habitat stewardship Programme; MNR; Rouge Park; and Toronto and Region Conservation, this model approach to evaluating existing habitat and habitats that might be restored to enhance turtle habitats is now being applied to the Rouge Park and adjacent watershed.
LIVING WITH WILDLIFE: MASSASAUGA RATTLESNAKE EDUCATOR CURRICULUM GUIDE (128 pp)
This resource contains background information designed to familiarize educators with the Massasauga rattlesnake. The curriculum package is aimed at helping educators feel confident while facilitating activities involving the Massasauga rattlesnake, and provides lesson preparation tools that will assist in communicating important facts about snake biology and ecology, safe snake handling practices, community-based participation in the recovery process, and changing persisting negative attitudes towards this often misunderstood species. The engaging activities included in this resource are cross-curricular and appropriate for various grade levels. Most of the activities do not require additional resources. Specific curriculum expectations met by each activity are listed. Massasauga Rattlesnake Educator Curriculum Guides are available under the Resources section of the AAP website, and limited hard copies can be obtained while supplies last by contacting the Adopt-A-Pond Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org
AT RISK VIDEO GAME
Adopt-A-Pond’s newly released video game “AT RISK: The Turtle Survivor Challenge” is an excellent resource for teachers, conservation leaders and members of the community to introduce students of all ages to the variety of threats that face Ontario’s turtles, and actions we can take to protect local species from extinction. This fun and realistic video game challenges the player to survive through four different seasons as either a Blanding’s Turtle or a Painted Turtle, navigating natural and human-induced threats in each separate challenge. Some challenges focus on naturally occurring threats such as the risk of predators and the difficulty in finding a mate while other challenges focus on human-induced threats such as wetland pollution and degradation, habitat fragmentation and the introduction of exotic species. Information about how the game links to Ontario’s curriculum expectations is available on the AAP website, and game-associated links to modules from AAP’s Turtle Conservation Curriculum are provided under the Games section of the AAP website so that teachers can take advantage of the game as a teaching tool to enhance lessons in ecology and biology.
VENOMOUS AND DANGEROUS REPTILE TRAINING WORKSHOPS (B. Johnson, A. Lentini)
Providing a framework to assess staff health and safety and placing the risks of dangerous reptiles in perspective benefits snake conservation. These workshops provide techniques for understanding and avoiding snakebite, analyzing first aid and treatment options to improve outcomes, and realistically assessing of the potential danger from snake bite. To assist in understanding the threats that dangerous reptiles may present to specialized professionals, Toronto Zoo provides all day training workshops for:
- Canadian Forces deployed to Afghanistan and Sierra Leone (with training manual)
- Toronto Animal services
- Durham Animal services
- Toronto Emergency Medical Services
- St. John’s Ambulance
- Poison Control Centre
- Emergency department; Sunnybrook and Scarborough Centenary hospitals
Workshops cover snake identification, antivenom therapy; safety and handling, emergency kits, and recognizing dangers from giant snakes, large lizards, crocodilians, poisonous amphibians and zoonotic diseases (i.e. diseases passed between animals and humans). Toronto Zoo staff are on call to assist in the case of medical emergencies associated with snake or other reptile bites and escapes.