Hatchlings Raised at the Toronto Zoo Brace Themselves for the wild of Kejimkujik

by BHAVNA SAMTANI, Visual Communications Intern ||

Turtle pals learn to weigh and measure turtle hatchlings at the Toronto Zoo.

July 6th, 2012 marked the release of 50 head-started Blanding’s turtles into Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site. The turtles had been raised in the Toronto Zoo Animal Health Centre. The 50 turtles were incubated and hatched at Oaklawn Farm Zoo, after which they were raised at the Toronto Zoo for nearly two years. Turtles raised in captivity for two years are equal in size to five-year-old wild turtles, increasing their chances of survival and reproduction.

During their time here, the hatchlings met with Grade 5 students in Ontario, as a part of the Toronto Zoo’s Turtle Pals program. Three classes were paired with a partner school in Nova Scotia to communicate about the Blanding’s turtle and challenges that the species is currently facing.

The students had the opportunity to name 25 of the hatchlings – names included Beans, U-Jean, and Justin Beiber! The students also learned about turtle feeding habits, turtle husbandry and radio-telemetry. At the end of the year-long program, students had developed posters and public service videos demonstrating what they had learned – for example, did you know that Blanding’s hatchlings are primarily carnivorous?

After leaving the Toronto Zoo, the turtles visited the Atlantic Veterinary College – University of Prince Edward Island, where each turtle had its gender determined. They have now returned to Nova Scotia, where they are ready to face the wild of Kejimkujik.

Justin Beiber, a hatchling named by a Turtle Pal!