Meet the Blanding’s Turtle (Emydoidea blandingii)
The Blanding’s turtle (Emydoidea blandingii) is one of eight native turtle species to Ontario and is currently categorized as threatened by the Ontario Endangered Species Act, 2007. These guys have a distinctive bright yellow throat and chin as well as a dark domed shell, said to resemble that of an old military helmet! They enjoy large wetlands with a lot of plants and plenty of slow moving water to move around in. Blanding’s turtle’s diet consists of a variety of food such as insects, larvae, worms, and small fish.
A problem presented with the conservation of these turtles is the 15-25 years it takes for them to reach sexual maturity and begin breeding. This makes it extremely difficult for the species to recover from habitat loss and road fatalities. The Toronto Zoo’s Adopt-A-Pond Wetland Conservation Programme is currently undertaking steps to mitigate these unnecessary deaths by remediating, protecting and creating important wetland habitat; headstarting* in areas where population numbers are low; installing turtle road crossing signs and culverts; and running a number of community outreach programs which educate the public about the importance of turtles and conservation.
You can help out too! Become a turtle Tallier! Submit ANY SPECIES of turtle you see to Ontario Turtle Tally and become part of an important database that allows natural resource managers and conservation organizations to protect Ontario’s turtles. These entries help us map the locations and ranges of turtle species, and identify unique “hotspots” where conservation efforts are needed.
*What is headstarting? Headstarting is a conservation program which aids in reintroducing endangered species to the wild. Eggs are collected from an established population of wild Blanding’s turtle during their nesting season. These clutches of eggs are incubated, hatched, and cared for by zoo staff for the first two years; a time when turtles are most vulnerable to predators. Once released the turtles are monitored to ensure a successful reintroduction. The goal of this project is to reintroduce these turtles to an area without an established population and increase the diversity creating a healthier wetland!