Parks Canada has been working closely with the Toronto Zoo to reintroduce Blanding's turtles in Rouge National Urban Park!

Of the eight different turtle species in Ontario, seven are classified as species-at-risk. Turtles have a long life span and reach sexual maturity around the age of 20 – a fairly late age. Many species face human-caused threats such as habitat loss, habitat fragmentation, and road mortality and it is difficult for populations to recover due to their slow reproductive rate.

The Blanding's turtle is a species that has inhabited the Rouge Valley for thousands of years. They have a lifespan of up to 100 years. Unfortunately, as few as seven Blanding's turtles remained in Rouge National Urban Park prior to 2014. In response to the declining population, Parks Canada and the Toronto Zoo began a long-term Blanding’s turtle reintroduction project in 2014 and have since released hundreds baby turtles in the park.

The Toronto Zoo gathers Blanding’s turtle eggs from sites with stable populations and gives the turtles a "head-start" by incubating the eggs and raising them in a controlled environment until they are ready to be released in Rouge National Urban Park. Ongoing research, monitoring, and habitat creation is also an important part of the project.

Monitoring involves tracking the turtles using radio tags to determine where they have moved and to discover important areas such as nesting, foraging, and overwintering sites. Habitat creation involves restoring wetlands and constructing nesting habitat to ensure that the turtles will survive over the long-term. Restoration work also benefits other species that use wetland habitats. This project is the first of its kind in the Greater Toronto Area and will hopefully help to stabilize and grow the park’s Blanding’s turtle population.

Blanding’s turtles can be identified by their bright yellow throat and chin. If you see one in the park, please report your sighting to Parks Canada.