BABY TURTLES RELEASED INTO THE FUTURE ROUGE NATIONAL URBAN PARK

Blandings-turtles_0653 (June 2015)

The Toronto Zoo, Parks Canada and the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority are working together to help recover a threatened species. 

TORONTO, JUNE 23, 2015 – Today the Toronto Zoo, Parks Canada and the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) reintroduced 21 baby Blanding’s turtles to a pond that will be part of Rouge National Urban Park in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) – Canada’s first national urban park and one of the largest urban parks of its kind in the world.

This is the second year Blanding’s turtles – a provincially and nationally threatened species – have been released in the park. In June 2014, the same group of partners collaborated on the release of 10 baby Blanding’s turtles in the Rouge.

The long-lived species, with a life span of up to 80 years, has inhabited the Rouge Valley for thousands of years, though prior to last year’s release its future was uncertain, with as few as six Blanding’s turtles remaining.

“This long term reintroduction project is the first of its kind in the Greater Toronto Area and marks a significant step in 15 years of turtle monitoring and research in what will soon become Rouge National Urban Park,” said Dr. Andrew Lentini, Curator of Amphibians and Reptiles at the Toronto Zoo. “Blanding’s turtles are amazing creatures and in some ways they’re 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.”

“Our Government is committed to protecting the natural environment in Rouge National Urban Park by protecting wildlife and enhancing biodiversity,” said Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of the Environment and Minister responsible for Parks Canada. “Blanding’s turtles are an important indicator species for wetland health and our Government is dedicated to re-establishing a healthy local population in the Rouge.”

The turtle eggs were collected from a stable source population in southern Ontario in 2013 and have been raised in a controlled environment at the Toronto Zoo over the last two years. The University of Toronto Scarborough has joined this head starting project and is assisting with long-term monitoring of the released turtles. Parks Canada, the TRCA and the Toronto Zoo believe that this type of head starting 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.

The public can help protect the turtles by avoiding their nesting areas and by contacting authorities if they observe harmful behavior toward turtles or their habitat. The location of the pond housing the reintroduced turtles will not be disclosed at this time to help minimize disturbances and give the animals the best chance of surviving.

To report turtle poaching, please contact Crime Stoppers: http://www.torontozoo.com/crimestoppers.

The Toronto Zoo and TRCA began collecting information on and monitoring Blanding’s turtles in the Rouge Valley in 2000. Environment Canada and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry provided funding, permits and in-kind support for Blanding’s turtle monitoring in the Rouge Valley in previous years. With the area slated to become Canada’s first national urban park, Parks Canada has come on board and will continue to work on a long-term turtle monitoring program.

Earth Rangers, an environmental conservation organization focused on engaging youth in the protection of nature, also provided support for the project by building a facility to house the turtle eggs and babies at the Toronto Zoo.

              CLICK HERE for photos and footage of the Blanding’s turtle release!

Turtles RNP

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

AAP and TZ

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