Parks Canada and the Toronto Zoo release 49 more baby turtles in the Rouge!

On Thursday June 21, 2018, the Toronto Zoo, Parks Canada, Toronto and Region Conservation Authority and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) reintroduced another group of 49 baby Blanding's turtles to a wetland in the Rouge National Urban Park– Canada’s first national urban park.

This is the fifth year Blanding’s turtles – listed as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and a provincially and nationally threatened species – have been released into the park. The program which began in 2014 has now reintroduced 165 juvenile Blanding’s turtles into the wild in an effort to save the species.

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 2014 its future was uncertain, with as few as six Blanding’s turtles remaining. Blanding’s turtles are an important indicator species for wetland health and Parks Canada is strongly committed to re-establishing a healthy local population in Rouge National Urban Park.

These Blanding’s turtles were rescued as eggs from a stable source population in southern Ontario and have been raised in a protected environment at the Toronto zoo for two years. Helping to give the turtles a ‘head-start’, the Toronto Zoo has raised them passed their most vulnerable phases where they would have been much more susceptible to predation. 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, the OMNRF and the Toronto Zoo all believe that this ‘head-start’ and reintroduction of the turtles coupled with long-term monitoring and continuous habitat restoration are the keys to the Blanding’s turtles’ survival in Rouge National Urban Park.

On March 28th 2018, the Toronto Zoo opened a new Blanding’s turtle exhibit for visitors of the zoo to get a ‘behind the scenes’ look at one of the Toronto Zoo and Parks Canada’s most successful conservation programs.

The public can help protect Blanding’s turtles by avoiding their nesting areas and by contacting authorities if they observe harmful behavior toward turtles or their habitat. To report turtle poaching, please contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

Many more Blanding’s turtle releases are planned in the coming years!