TORONTO, ON, Wednesday, June 28, 2017 –Today the Toronto Zoo, Parks Canada, the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) reintroduced 49 baby Blanding's turtles to a wetland that will soon become part of Rouge National Urban Park. Once completed, Canada’s first national urban park will span more than 79 km2 in the Greater Toronto Area, making it one of the world’s largest protected areas in an urban setting.. The Blanding’s Turtle Head-Start conservation program is part of a significant partnership between Toronto Zoo, Parks Canada, the TRCA, and the MNRF to help recover this globally endangered species.
This is the fourth year Blanding’s turtles – listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and a provincially and nationally threatened species – have been released in the park. In June 2016, the same group of partners collaborated on the release of 36 baby Blanding’s turtles in the Rouge. The program, which began reintroducing baby Blanding’s turtles in June 2014, has now reintroduced 116 baby Blanding’s turtles in total into the wild. The Blanding’s turtle is a long-lived species, with a life span of up to 80 years, and has inhabited the Rouge Valley for thousands of years, though prior to 2014 its future was uncertain, with as few as six adult Blanding’s turtles remaining.
“In celebration of Canada 150, the reintroduction of this Canadian species is particularly special this year,” said John Tracogna, Chief Executive Officer, Toronto Zoo. “Blanding’s turtles are a flagship species representing a group of animals facing a variety of threats. Seven of eight turtle species in Ontario are at risk and need our help. All Canadians can learn how to help turtles by visiting Toronto Zoo’s Adopt-A-Pond website and by reporting sightings to Toronto Zoo’s Ontario Turtle Tally.”
“The Government of Canada is committed to preserving our national parks and protecting species-at-risk, like the Blanding’s turtle,” said the Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada. “Our government is very proud to have recently strengthened the protections for Rouge National Urban Park. Blanding's turtles are an important indicator of a healthy park, as well as a species of cultural significance to Indigenous communities. In partnership with the Toronto Zoo, Parks Canada is dedicated to re-establishing a healthy, local population of this threatened turtle species in Canada's first national urban park.”
These Blanding’s turtles were rescued as eggs from non-viable nests in a stable source population in southern Ontario and have been raised in a controlled environment at the Toronto Zoo for two years. Giving these turtles a ‘head-start’ in life, the Zoo has raised them past their most vulnerable stages where they would otherwise have faced an increased chance of predation from animals like raccoons. The University of Toronto Scarborough has joined this head-starting project and is assisting with long term monitoring of the released turtles. Parks Canada, the TRCA, the MNRF, and the Toronto Zoo believe that this type of head-starting and reintroduction of the turtles, along with long term monitoring and ongoing habitat restoration, are keys to the species’ survival in the future Rouge National Urban Park.
TURTLES ARE TOPS
In the Fall of 2016 Toronto Zoo offered an exclusive opportunity for the public to adopt and name 49 baby Blanding’s turtles as part of the Zoo’s Adopt-An-Animal Program. This particular Adopt-An-Animal offer was an extra special opportunity as the adopted ‘parents’ were given the chance to name the baby Blanding’s turtles that were reintroduced into the wild today. Some of the creatively chosen names were as follows: Princess Seaweed, Commodore Fitzroy Shellington, Squirt, Lightning, and Turtley just to name a few. CLICK HERE for more information!
CLICK HERE for photos & video of today’s Blanding’s turtle release in Rouge National Urban Park. The public can help protect the turtles by avoiding their nesting areas and by contacting authorities if they observe harmful behavior toward turtles or suspicious behaviour in their habitat. The location of the wetland housing the reintroduced turtles will not be disclosed at this time to help minimize disturbances and give the animals the best chance of surviving.
CLICK HERE to report turtle poaching, please contact Crime Stoppers.
The Toronto Zoo and TRCA began collecting information on and monitoring Blanding’s turtles in the Rouge Valley in 2005. Environment Canada and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry provided funding, permits and in-kind support for Blanding’s turtle monitoring in the Rouge Valley in previous years. With the area slated to become Canada’s first national urban park, Parks Canada has come on board and will continue to work on a long-term turtle monitoring program. Earth Rangers, an environmental conservation organization focused on engaging youth in the protection of nature, also provided support for the project by building a facility to house the turtle eggs and babies at the Toronto Zoo.
CLICK HERE for more information on the Blanding's Turtle Head-Start Program Reintroduction
Toronto Zoo Media Contacts:
Katie Gray, Supervisor of Public Relations and Events
firstname.lastname@example.org or #416-392-5941
Amanda Chambers, Public Relations and Events Associate
email@example.com or #416-392-5974
Parks Canada Media Contact:
Jeffrey Sinibaldi, public relations and communications officer
firstname.lastname@example.org or #647-271-8189
About The Toronto Zoo
The Toronto Zoo is Canada’s premier zoo and a national leader in saving wildlife to ensure the rich diversity of nature for future generations. More than a tourist attraction, the Toronto Zoo boasts a number of leading programs for helping wildlife and their natural habitats – from species reintroduction to reproductive research. A world-class educational centre for people of all ages, the Toronto Zoo is open every day except December 25 and attracts approximately 1.3 million visitors each year.
About Parks Canada
Parks Canada manages one of the finest and most extensive systems of protected natural and cultural heritage areas in the world, including 46 national parks, 171 national historic sites, four national marine conservation areas and one national urban park. A rich assembly of natural, cultural and agricultural landscapes, Rouge National Urban Park is home to amazing biodiversity, some of the last remaining working farms in the Greater Toronto Area, Carolinian ecosystems, Toronto’s only campground, one of the region’s largest marshes, a beach at Lake Ontario, amazing hiking opportunities, and human history dating back more than 10,000 years. parkscanada.ca/rouge