Rescued baby snapping turtles returned to the wild
The story of these turtles began last fall, when turtle eggs were discovered on a bridge scheduled to be torn down on the campus. Facilities manager Rick Greenlaw alerted Dr. Sue Carstairs, a professor at Seneca and executive and medical director of the OTCC. She collected, incubated and hatched the eggs as part of the OTCC’s head-starting program.
With the help of WWF-Canada’s Go Wild Community Grants presented by TELUS, the OTCC hosted a public event to celebrate their release, offering a rare opportunity to see a species at risk returned to the wild. Other rare turtles from OTCC’s education program were also on hand to raise awareness about threats to turtles and teach the public how they can help turtles recover and thrive in the wild.
Turtle releasers include Steve Pellegrini, mayor of the King Township; David Agnew, president of Seneca College; and David Miller, president and CEO of WWF-Canada. The public also had the chance to take part in the release.
The hatchlings released are just one clutch of hundreds the OTCC helps each year. In 2015, OTCC hatched more than 1,000 turtles through the head-starting program. More than 500 adult turtles annually receive treatment at the centre’s hospital, contributing to OTCC’s goal of protecting and conserving Ontario’s native turtles and habitats.
Threats to Ontario’s turtles:
- In Ontario, seven of the eight turtle species are considered at risk.
- Less than 1 per cent of eggs make it to adulthood, so every turtle hatchling saved through OTCC’s head-starting program is crucial to preventing turtles from disappearing from our ecosystems.
- Habitat loss and fragmentation have played a major role in the decline of turtles as marshes, swamps, bogs and fens where turtles live are drained, filled or otherwise altered.
- Road mortality is also becoming a major threat to turtles as more roads are built through remaining wetlands.
- Other threats include the pet trade, human consumption, pollution, competition with non-native turtle species such as red-eared sliders and increasing populations of predators that are benefiting from human settlement.
- WWF-Canada is working to better understand and raise awareness about the threats faced by freshwater species, including turtles, by performing the first ever nation-wide assessment of our watersheds. For more information, visit wwf.ca/watershedreports
Quote from Dr. Sue Carstairs, executive and medical director of Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre:
“Every turtle hatchling that OTCC rescues and returns to the wild makes a difference and will help Ontario’s turtle populations recover. I am thrilled to have the support of WWF-Canada and TELUS on this event so we can teach more people about the importance of turtles and the role they play in maintaining healthy wetlands.”
Quote from David Agnew, president Seneca College:
“As one of the largest landowners in the Oak Ridges Moraine, we understand the importance of being good stewards of this vital natural asset and the wildlife we share with it. We are delighted to work with WWF-Canada and the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre to protect this vital population of snapping turtles at our King Campus.”
Quote from David Miller, president and CEO of WWF-Canada:
“The Go Wild Community Grants program was created to empower Canadians to connect deeply with nature and take action to address major conservation challenges, starting in their own communities. The Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre is working to protect at-risk species and educate Ontarians about the threats facing turtles – threats we’re understanding more about through WWF-Canada’s Watershed Reports.”
About Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre:
Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre, home of the Kawartha Turtle Trauma Centre, is a registered charity whose goal is to protect and conserve Ontario’s native turtles and the habitat in which they live. The centre operates a turtle hospital that treats, rehabilitates and releases injured turtles, performs extensive research in the field to further conservation initiatives and runs a comprehensive education and outreach program. For more information, visit http://kawarthaturtle.org.
About World Wildlife Fund Canada
WWF-Canada creates solutions to the environmental challenges that matter most for Canadians. We work in places that are unique and ecologically important, so that nature, wildlife and people thrive together. Because we are all wildlife. For more information, visit wwf.ca.
About Go Wild Community Grants presented by TELUS
In partnership with TELUS, WWF-Canada’s Go Wild Community Grants support creative ideas from Canadians on how to protect, restore, monitor, educate and celebrate nature. For more information, visit http://www.wwf.ca/gowild.
About Seneca College:
With campuses in Toronto, York Region and Peterborough, Seneca offers degrees, diplomas, certificates and graduate programs renowned for their quality and respected by employers. It is one of the largest comprehensive colleges in Canada, offering nearly 300 full-time, part-time and online programs. Combining the highest academic standards with work-integrated and applied learning, expert teaching faculty and the latest technology ensure Seneca graduates are career-ready.
For further information and photos:
Emily Vandermeer, communication specialist at WWF-Canada, firstname.lastname@example.org, 416-489-4567 Ext. 7298.
Lisa Pires, media relations specialist at Seneca College, email@example.com, 416-938-9219.
Emily Giles, Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre, firstname.lastname@example.org