21 baby Blanding’s turtles have been released into a pond by the Toronto Zoo, Parks Canada and the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA). The turtles were released into an area which is soon to become part of Rouge National Urban Park in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). This park is set to be Canada’s first national urban park and one of the world’s largest urban parks.
Blanding’s turtles were facing an uncertain future with just six left before a reintroduction program began last year. During June 2014 10 Blanding’s turtles were returned to the same park.
“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.”
This species has roamed the Rouge valley for thousands of years and their loss would be devastating. The released turtles may grow to be 80 years old.
Unfortunately poaching has led to a decline in this species numbers. To give these turtles the best chance of surviving the zoo has made the decision not to mention where the lake is meaning disturbance will be minimal.
“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.”
During 2013 eggs were sustainably sourced from southern Ontario. They were taken to Toronto Zoo who has been raising them for two years. Over a longer time the turtles will be monitored by the University of Toronto Scarborough.
Photo Credit: Toronto Zoo