TURTLE CARE – A CO-OP EXPERIENCE BY JACOB ABREU
My name is Jacob and I am a grade 12 Student from Dunbarton High School. For my co-op placement, I have been helping out with the Blanding’s turtle and Wood turtle head-start and reintroduction programs at Toronto Zoo’s Adopt-A-Pond Wetland Conservation Programme. Turtles in the head-start program are raised from an egg until they are two years old, then they are released into wetlands in the Rouge National Urban Park. This time in captivity allows them to grow to a size where they are less susceptible to predation, thus helping to improve their wild population. Specifically, I assist with husbandry (animal care) for the turtles. The turtles are fed and cleaned every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I help the team with creating stewardship resource packages and other office tasks. Every day, I check up on the head-start turtles, record the temperatures of their enclosures, and ensure that all of the turtles are healthy and happy.
The head-start turtles receive a mixed diet of nutritional gel made at the Zoo, worms, fish, crickets, and leafy greens. Some of the turtles have unique husbandry needs such as one named Tim. Tim needs to be separated from the other turtles because he loves to take his time eating. I have to wait for him to finish and then put him back into his enclosure with the other turtles. There are four large turtles of which, three have names. Mr. Grumps is a male Blanding’s Turtle who likes his personal space. Mrs. Stumps is another Blanding’s Turtle who sadly lost the tips of her front feet from a raccoon but is now perfectly fine and happy. Tim, the slow-eating Wood Turtle, is a bit smaller-sized than the other three turtles. Last but not least is another Wood Turtle that has no name so I call him Genbu, after a mythological being that is one of the four guardians of Japan. Genbu protects the north of Kyoto and is known to look like a giant turtle with a snake for a tail.
Caring for these head-start turtles has helped me get out of my comfort zone and have more trust in other people. It has helped me to have a better understanding of how important these creatures truly are in the ecosystem. I am really happy about the work I have done with my friends here at the Toronto Zoo – contributing to raising these special little turtles. I hope that the turtles will grow healthy, strong, and live a long and peaceful life out in the wild after they are released. I hope later on in life I will get a job at the Toronto Zoo and continue to help these beautiful creatures so they can live a life they truly deserve. I want to thank Mr. Gordon, Paul, Katherine and the Adopt-A-Pond Programme for letting me have this wonderful experience.
Other ways to get involved:
1. Submit your sightings of:
- Frogs & Toads to Adopt-A-Pond’s FrogWatch
- Turtles to Adopt-A-Pond’s Ontario Turtle Tally
- Other Reptiles & Amphibians in Ontario to Ontario Nature’s Herp Atlas
2. Volunteer here at the Toronto Zoo!