Blanding’s turtle hatchlings 2017 have arrived!
The Blanding’s turtle hatchlings of 2017 have finally arrived! They began hatching July 31st, which is quite early for the species but very exciting for everyone on the Adopt-A-Pond team! Headstarting, which involves raising turtles from eggs to two year old juveniles, is very important for Blanding’s turtles for a variety of reasons. These turtles hatch out very small, about the size of a toonie, which makes them easy targets for predators. Their shells are also very soft in comparison to adult turtles, which means they have virtually no protection from anything that may want to take a bite. Our hope is to get them to a size where they are not an easy snack for any predator, and have developed a very strong and hard shell! We will raise this group of turtles in a protected zoo environment through their most vulnerable years, to give them the best chance of survival and ensure they are ready to make it on their own!
Our baby turtles are intensively monitored to ensure their future success. That starts when they are just a few days old and these turtle hatchlings are processed, which means they are weighed, measured and marked with an individual identification code in a procedure known as notching. Notching is when a very small triangular section of shell is clipped from the edge of the shell. This process does not hurt the turtle, and is a lot like when you trim your fingernails! Notches are done in a specific and unique order, which gives each turtle its own series of numbers, or a notch code. This code follows the turtle throughout its entire life, allowing us to track their weight while in the zoo and their movements once released. Once a turtle has received a notch code, it is placed on a scale to measure its weight. It is very important to record this first weight because we can tell if the hatchlings are eating properly by how much weight they gain or lose. We will often reweigh the hatchlings within their first or second week, and then once a month, to make sure they are getting bigger and stronger!
Finally, the hatchlings are placed in a large habitat that offers both a water and a land area for basking. These little turtles are not used to water, and most prefer to stick on land for the first few days in their new habitat. We like to keep the water a bit warmer than what would be found in the natural environment for the young turtles, about 28 °C vs 25 °C, to make their move from land to water a little bit easier.
As you can see from the photos, our hatchlings are already developing personalities, and are quite fun to watch as they move about their enclosure experiencing everything for the first time! We are so happy to have our 2017 hatchlings arrive, and cannot wait to raise them until they are ready for release!
As always, if you spot a turtle please contribute your sighting to the Ontario Turtle Tally at this link: http://www.torontozoo.com/adoptapond/turtletally.asp!
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