Our Baby Turtles are Growing up!
Staff from the Adopt-A-Pond programme look after 200 baby turtles here at Toronto Zoo. These turtles are more than just interesting creatures to learn about though, they are the future for declining populations in Ontario. Working with Blanding’s turtles and Wood turtles, the team will release youngsters after a couple years of growth at the Zoo, to help boost their wild populations.
The young Blanding’s turtles are part of a headstarting project in partnership with Parks Canada and the new Rouge National Urban Park. The current population of Blanding’s turtles living in the park is so low that they require some assistance increasing their numbers if they are to survive as a sustainable population beyond the next 100 years. The Blanding’s turtles at the Zoo come to us as eggs, which we carefully incubate and hatch in our turtle nursery. Once they hatch, they live in the nursery for the next 2 years as they grow. The hatchling turtles weigh about 10 grams and are very small, but they will grow to almost 15 times that size before they are released into the wild of Rouge National Urban Park.
Right now we have a bunch of Blanding’s turtles that hatched in 2014 and in 2015. The babies from 2014 now weigh around 110 grams, and will be ready for release this spring. The babies from 2015 now weigh around 25 grams, just over double their weight from hatching this past summer.
In Ontario, the Wood turtle is an Endangered species, meaning its numbers are very low. One of the biggest threats to Wood turtles is poaching; these turtles are highly valued by those who would catch them and sell them as pets. This has lead to a large decline in their numbers, and in some cases there are not enough turtles remaining in a population for them to increase again on their own. The Wood turtles at the Zoo are part of a headstarting project in partnership with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, who hope to assist in growing the number of these turtles living in the wild long term.
Baby Wood turtles have been hatched in captivity every year since 2005, and released once they reach a weight of over 70 grams, which can take 1-2 years. We release the turtles near the beginning of summer so they have time to acclimatize to their new habitat. Our Wood turtles from 2014 are now weighing in at an average of 140 grams, which means they have passed the 70 gram threshold and are ready to be released this spring! Our 2015 youngsters are already up to 40 grams in weight, well on their way to being big healthy turtles! Some of these turtles may be ready for release with their older friends this spring, while smaller ones may be kept for an additional year to help increase their growth.
No matter the turtle, or the trouble its facing, Adopt-A-Pond and the Toronto Zoo team are always eager to lend their expertise to help bring back these amazing animals for everyone to appreciate. When you are outside this spring, keep your eyes open for our turtle friends, and remember to report your sightings to Ontario Turtle Tally, through the Zoo website. This information helps us and our conservation partners monitor the status of turtle populations in Ontario and lets us know when turtles need our help!
Funding and Support for Adopt-A-Pond Has Been Provided By:
For more information about Toronto Zoo’s conservation programs, visit: