Our Spring Turtle Research Has Started!

This week Adopt-A-Pond welcomes two new turtle researchers to the team, Travis Landry, Species at Risk Turtle Research Technician and Jethro Valido, Masters Candidate in Biology and Conservation from the University of Toronto (Scarborough).

These two turtle trackers will be using radio-telemetry to follow the movements of our released headstart Blanding’s turtles and a few wild Blanding’s turtles in the Rouge National Urban Park. Their mission is to monitor survival and track how the turtles use habitat to help inform future restoration and recovery projects. The project will also help park managers create and maintain habitat to achieve population sustainability; a rare thing in Southern Ontario as the Blanding’s turtle and its habitat are declining at an alarming rate.

Important information will be collected on where the turtles spend their time, how far they move, and what characteristics define their habitat (e.g. water quality, vegetation types, etc.). At each location the researchers will look at the habitat qualities most critical for turtles, such as basking areas, nesting areas, hibernation sites, food sources and pond soils, and evaluate how we can replicate ideal turtle habitat in other areas of the Park. Based on the information gathered by our turtle research team, and working with our partners, the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority and Parks Canada, Adopt-A-Pond will be helping to create and restore suitable habitat for Blanding’s turtles in the Rouge National Urban Park.

Creating habitat for Blanding’s turtles not only helps this threatened species, but also creates valuable wetland ecosystems ideal for supporting a wide variety of our local wildlife and migratory species. Blanding’s turtles are a flagship species for wetland conservation because they require a large number of diverse wetland habitats throughout their lifecycle. From small ephemeral pools and swamps, to large marshy expanses, these turtles travel long distances throughout the year to use multiple wetlands for foraging, mating, hibernating and leisurely basking in the warm sunshine.  By creating and protecting wetland habitats that help to support Blanding’s turtles we can help to ensure that all life found in Ontario’s southern wetland ecosystems is protected!

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You can help too! If you see a Blanding’s turtle in Rouge National Urban Park or anywhere else in Ontario report your sightings to Ontario Turtle Tally. This citizen science programme collects turtle sightings from volunteers across the province. All the data we collect helps us to identify where turtles live and work with our partners to protect turtle habitat! Become a Turtle Tallier today!

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For more information about Toronto Zoo conservation programs visit:  http://www.torontozoo.com/conservation/

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