Aldergrove zoo raises techy turtles

The Greater Vancouver Zoo is normally a place where people go to see animals, but recently, it’s been a place where animals are released.

The zoo is part of a project to save the western painted turtle and over the past few weeks, 40 hatchlings from the zoo were released at two specially chosen sites.

Transmitters were attached to 18 of the turtles so they can be radio tracked, and will provide information on their survival and habitat use.

“There is very little known about hatchling and juvenile turtle behaviour/movements and habitat needs. This data will help to inform both this species conservation as well as many related species and turtles in general,” said biologist Andrea Gielens.

Another 13 hatchlings will be released next spring, considered too small to survive alone this year.

The eggs were originally collected on the Sunshine Coast in the spring of 2012 and incubated at the zoo.

According to the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), the Pacific Coast Population is listed as endangered, while the intermountain-Rocky Mountain population is listed as being of special concern.

The western painted turtle and other freshwater species are limited by short supply of suitable habitats, the committee noted, due to urban development, drainage of wetlands, forestry, road-building, and other human activities.

The western painted turtle is named after the bright yellow stripes on its head, neck, tail and legs, and the glowing red on its plastron (shell covering the belly) and under-edge of its carapace (shell covering the back). They can grow to more than a foot in length, and can often been seen basking in areas completely surrounded by water, to avoid predators.

Anyone who sees these distinctive turtles is asked to leave them alone.

They should never be removed from their habitat nor taken as pets. As well, people are asked to be careful when in the wilderness so they don’t trample turtle nests.

The zoo is part of the Western Painted Turtle Recovery Program through the Wildlife Preservation Canada. See its website by clicking here.

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