We Released The Baby Blanding’s!

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On June 30, 2014 the Toronto Zoo’s Adopt-A-Pond Wetland Conservation Programme, Parks Canada, the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) and Earth Rangers, reintroduced 10 headstart  baby Blanding’s turtles back into the wild in the future Rouge National Urban Park.

Blanding’s are a Species at Risk both provincially and nationally. They are long lived and were once thought to be abundant in the Rouge Valley, but over time their population has greatly decreased due to habitat loss, habitat fragmentation, increased nest predation, and road mortality. Current population estimates have shown to be at extremely low levels.

Eggs were collected from an abundant source population in southern Ontario in 2012 and have been raised in captivity at the Toronto Zoo over the last two years. Two years is about the time it takes for these little guys to be big enough to evade most predators. Earth Rangers provided support for the project by funding a facility to house the turtle eggs and headstart the hatchlings at the Toronto Zoo. The team at Earth Rangers have had over 17,000 kids sign up to help protect the Blanding’s turtle through their Bring Back the Wild fundraising campaign.

Additional support for the program has been provided by The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, the Toronto Field Naturalists, the City of Toronto, and Environment Canada.

Captive rearing and reintroduction of the turtles, along with long-term monitoring and ongoing habitat restoration, are keys to the animal’s survival in the future Rouge National Urban Park.

“This is the first reintroduction of its kind in the Greater Toronto Area and marks a significant step in 15 years of turtle monitoring and research in the Rouge Valley,” said Bob Johnson, Curator of Amphibians and Reptiles at the Toronto Zoo. “Blanding’s turtles are amazing creatures and in some ways are a poster child for endangered species – by helping them, we also help countless other wetland animals and plants, so this is a good news story. The Toronto Zoo is proud to be part of this important partnership to save and protect Blanding’s turtles.”

 “Healthy turtles mean healthy wetlands and Blanding’s turtles can be indicators of good wetland health in the park,” added Johnson. “It’s exciting to collaborate with our partners and it’s particularly convenient to have a national protected area across the street from us at the zoo.”

The public can help too! Protect the turtles by avoiding their nesting areas and by contacting the authorities if you see unusual behaviour in Rouge National Urban Park. You can also report any turtle sightings to the Ontario Turtle Tally; a programme that uses citizen data to target areas where turtle conservation is needed.

Good luck baby turtles!

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