TORONTO, ON, Friday, February 2, 2018: Even though there is snow on the ground, World Wetlands Day falls every year on February 2nd, and the Toronto Zoo is celebrating this annual date with the official launch of the Adopt-A-Pond App! After extensive design, testing and tweaking, the Toronto Zoo’s Adopt-A-Pond Programme is proud to announce the official launch of a new citizen science app that will take our Turtle Tally and FrogWatch programmes to the next level!
The Toronto Zoo’s Adopt-A-Pond Wetland Conservation Programme works to design and deliver impactful conservation-focused research, restoration, and outreach that highlights the importance of saving Canada’s sensitive wetland species and their habitats. This app is the next step in reaching out to engage more Canadians in protecting local biodiversity through citizen science.
Biologists from the Toronto Zoo and the team at LBC IT Solutions Inc, with the support of Environment Canada’s Habitat Stewardship Program, have created an app with the purpose of encouraging public awareness and participation as a citizen scientist with Turtle Tally and FrogWatch. The information gathered from this new app will help to identify abundances and locations of frogs, toads and turtles, which is crucial to prevent further population loss for these native groups of wildlife. Participants in our Turtle Tally and FrogWatch programs will find it easier than ever to share their observations with our team by submitting sightings through the app or our new and improved web reporting system on the Zoo website.
If you are unfamiliar with the Turtle Tally and FrogWatch programs, there is no need to worry! It is easy and fun to start saving our local species! Do you think you may have spotted a Blanding’s turtle, Gray tree frog or maybe an American toad? If so, please record the details of your experience by downloading the Adopt-A-Pond App! Information from your findings will be shared with our partner organizations, including the Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas (Ontario Nature) and the Natural Heritage Information Centre (Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry), to help determine the status of native reptile and amphibian populations and to supplement conservation programs and initiatives.
The Adopt-A-Pond App is fun and easy to use and, with you assisting our biologists, we can map where these threatened and endangered native species can be found. You can download this app through the IOS App Store and Android Google Play Store today!
“The new Adopt-A-Pond App makes it even easier for every Ontarian, young and old, rural and urban, to use our flagship Citizen Science programmes to contribute directly to scientific research and direct conservation actions that benefit the wildlife and habitats that we all rely on,” says Dr. Andrew Lentini, Curator of Amphibians and Reptiles, Toronto Zoo. “Through our App even seemingly small local initiatives can make a big difference to wildlife.”
Do you often see frogs and turtles in the wild? If so, please record the details of your experience by downloading the Adopt-A-Pond App or submitting your information through our new Turtle Tally and FrogWatch web forms! Information from your findings will be shared with partner organizations to determine the status of native frog and turtle populations and to supplement conservation programs and initiatives. With your help, we can provide a safe and cleaner environment for these fascinating creatures.
About Toronto Zoo’s Adopt-A-Pond Programme:
The Toronto Zoo’s Adopt-A-Pond Programme includes both FrogWatch and Turtle Tally initiatives. Since the inception of FrogWatch in 1999, over 18,489 observations have been made to date, including 180 observations made in 2017. Turtle Tally on the other hand, began in 2003, and has resulted in over 19,984 observations to date, 997 of those being made in 2017. Together there have been 38,473 observations submitted by citizen scientists in both programmes. The Toronto Zoo would like to send our sincere thanks to all the participants in these programmes for all your volunteer efforts that keep our local frogs, toads and turtles safe.
In 1989 at the first World Congress of Herpetology, a global gathering to discuss the study of amphibians and reptiles, it became clear that frogs, toads and salamanders – animals that rely on wetland habitat for most or part of their life - were declining worldwide. At the Toronto Zoo, many visitors and local community members expressed their concern over the loss of frogs at their cottage, or the disappearance of toads that once shared their gardens. Eager to take action, a group of zoo staff formed an Amphibian Interest Group to promote water and wetland conservation throughout the Zoo. In 1991, Adopt-A-Pond was chosen as the name for Toronto Zoo’s Wetland Conservation Programme. The programme’s purpose was to engage families in identifying important wetland habitats and the creatures that these habitats support. Its first educational poster “Amphibians are disappearing - If you love to hear frogs sing, no-one wants a silent spring” was sent to over one million school children. With its early success in community wetland conservation, Adopt-A-Pond was awarded the American Zoo Association’s North American Conservation Award in 1997. Partnerships created through Adopt-A-Pond have resulted in the production of a series of unique Ontario focused reptile and amphibian identification guides, frog call CDs, and the Zoo’s first citizen science programme – FrogWatch Ontario. Adopt-A-Pond now maintains an expanded group of citizen science initiatives that include FrogWatch Ontario and Ontario Turtle Tally, along with a wide range of conservation projects focusing on local amphibian and reptile species.
Ontario Turtle Tally is a wildly popular programme that encourages nature lovers from all walks of life to report observations of turtles they see in the wild to an online registry at the Zoo, and this data, in turn, helps to implement habitat conservation projects and inspires participants to become advocates for turtles all across the province. Our work with Blanding's turtles is a great representation of how the Turtle Tally programme has directly influenced turtle conservation through the input of citizen scientists. At a site in Southern Ontario we were made aware of large numbers of Blanding's turtles hit on the road through sightings from Turtle Tally participants. We were able to work with local landowners and the road authority to erect permanent wildlife fencing and improve a wildlife crossing under the road to help the turtles move under the road rather than over it. Toronto Zoo staff monitored the Blanding’s turtles in the area for several years and, not only found them successfully using the crossing structure, but discovered that this relatively unknown population contained over 100 individuals. The information gathered through Turtle Tally is made available to a number of local conservation groups so that they too can use it to help turtles all across the province. Our staff visit communities to provide turtle identification training to those wishing to participate in the programme.