TORONTO, ON, Wednesday, August 23, 2017
- On Friday July 28th, 2017 the Toronto Zoo and its conservation partners introduced 38 head-started Wood turtles to protected habitat in Ontario. The Wood Turtle Head-Start conservation program is part of a significant partnership to help recover this important species, which is currently identified as Endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List, and with the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.
The Toronto Zoo has been assisting with the conservation of the Wood Turtle for several years. These turtles hatched from eggs rescued from at risk nests and have been raised in a controlled environment at the Toronto Zoo for two years. As with all species of turtles, the young have an extremely high mortality rate due to environmental pressures. 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. Toronto Zoo and its project partners 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 their natural habitat. Once released, the turtles are monitored through the use of radio telemetry equipment to learn more about their behaviour and the overall success of the program.
Wood turtles are known to be a very smart turtle, and one that only grows to the size of a dessert plate. These turtles are known to stamp on the ground with their feet to mimic raindrops, so that earthworms will come to the surface and become their next meal. It is both their intelligence and small size, that make the wood turtle a very tempting pet. As a result these turtles are highly prized by poachers and it is the indiscriminate collection of Wood turtles for the pet trade that has led to catastrophic population declines in many areas. With the added pressures of habitat loss and fragmentation, road mortality and predation, there is a great concern about the survival of this species in Canada.
CLICK HERE to report turtle poaching, please contact Crime Stoppers.
Wood turtles are a special part of Ontario’s natural heritage," said Dr. Andrew Lentini, Curator of Reptiles and Amphibians and Reptiles, Toronto Zoo. "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 sighting to Toronto Zoo’s Ontario Turtle Tally.”
Seven of eight turtle species in Ontario are at risk and although several factors contribute to this issue, illegal turtle trade is something that can be reduced through education and the public’s willingness to report suspected illegal activities through avenues like Crime Stoppers. Given the length of time most turtles take to mature and reproduce, taking even one turtle from the wild can hurt the entire population. As they continue to lose habitat, are hit by vehicles, and their eggs are eaten by predators such as skunks and raccoons, turtle poaching and trade could tip the scale. By submitting your observations about these illegal activities you contribute to the protection of all turtle species.
CLICK HERE for more information on Toronto Zoo’s Ontario Turtle Tally.
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Toronto Zoo Media Contacts:
Katie Gray, Supervisor of Public Relations and Events
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Amanda Chambers, Public Relations and Events Associate
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The Blanding’s turtle hatchlings of 2017 have finally arrived! They began hatching July 31st, which is quite early for the species but very exciting for everyone on the Adopt-A-Pond team! Head-starting, which involves raising turtles from eggs to two year old juveniles, is very important for Blanding’s turtles for a variety of reasons. These turtles hatch out very small, about the size of a toonie, which makes them easy targets for predators. Their shells are also very soft in comparison to adult turtles, which means they have virtually no protection from anything that may want to take a bite. Our hope is to get them to a size where they are not an easy snack for any predator, and have developed a very strong and hard shell! We will raise this group of turtles in a protected zoo environment through their most vulnerable years, to give them the best chance of survival and ensure they are ready to make it on their own!
If you would like to read the full post and see more pictures of our baby turtles
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.