Turtle Recovery Action Sees Growth in Ontario

Image of Anuja Kapoor

Anuja Kapoor, Guest Blogger

This blog is written by guest blogger Anuja Kapoor.

Slow and steady wins the race…at least where turtles are concerned.

A turtle crisis was declared in Ontario this summer after an alarming number of injured turtles were admitted to the Ontario Turtle Conservation Center for rehabilitation. Officials at the trauma facility reported operating beyond their carrying capacity with close to 800 turtles in recovery.

While predation poses a threat, turtles remain especially vulnerable to road mortality, habitat destruction and illegal poaching in Ontario. Many of the province’s turtles are also long-lived (taking up to 20 years to reach maturity), the death of even one adult can significantly affect species survival.

Seven out of the eight native turtle species in Ontario are at risk. Three of these currently classified as endangered on the Species at Risk in Ontario list: the Spotted Turtle, Wood Turtle and Spiny Softshell.

Image of a Spiny Softshell Turtle

Spiny Softshell Turtles have a flat and soft, olive to brown shell, a very long neck and pig-like snout. They were enlisted endangered in December 2016.

But it’s not all bad news.

This year marked a major victory for conservationists after a legislation was passed to put an end to the Snapping Turtle Hunt – out-dated and unsustainable practice that once allowed Ontarians to legally kill two snappers each day.

This was achieved through the collaborative effort of scientists and policy advisors, sending a clear message to the public about protecting our at-risk species.

Conservation organizations across Ontario have also brought together citizens and science to make a difference. Community outreach and education has been crucial for this development and often engages all-ages, from students in kindergarten to those studying university biology and veterinary sciences.

Meanwhile, research continues to better understand the dynamics of certain species such as painted turtles in Algonquin Provincial Park. Ontario Nature and David Suzuki Foundation have also introduced similar field projects to evaluate viable conservation strategies and track the behaviour, growth and survival of our turtle species.

Let’s take a moment to shell-abrate the good work of our conservationists and community members!

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