June has arrived! All across Ontario, things started moving weeks ahead of schedule. Birds started migrating into and through the province a full three weeks early, plants bloomed early, and the water quickly warmed up. Turtle sightings have been reported since mid-March, from the moment things began warming up. Turtles across the province are out and about, beginning their search for mates, new territory, and most critically… a place to nest! 65 injured turtles have already been admitted to the centre.
2011 – One Heck of a Year!
Kawartha Turtle Trauma Centre (KTTC), staff and volunteers are busy preparing to head into another record-breaking season. As the only rehabilitation centre dedicated solely to providing medical and rehabilitative care to Ontario’s native turtle species, KTTC has experienced an explosion of growth, as people across the province learn about the work we do and the importance of turtles to their ecosystems. In the past, KTTC admitted a total of 50-80 turtles per year. In 2010, that number jumped to 272. In 2011, the explosion happened, and we admitted a shocking 664 turtles – 350 of which were new turtles hatched in our turtle nursery!
Injured turtles admitted to KTTC are often found on roadsides after being hit by cars. Most of these are females who ventured from the safety of their ponds and marshes in search of a good place to nest. Road mortality and habitat loss are the primary reasons Ontario’s turtle populations are in serious decline. With 7 of the 8 species of turtle in Ontario now listed as “Species at Risk”, they are facing the very serious risk of extinction. While other species of wildlife also get hit on our roads, most animals have young from the previous year ready to mate and replenish the population. Unfortunately, this is not the case for turtles. Sadly, less than 1% of turtle eggs and hatchlings will survive to adulthood. This, combined with the fact that turtles can take anywhere from 8 to 25 years to reach maturity, means that it can take 200 eggs and up to 25 years to replace one nesting female killed on the roadside. Every turtle saved really does have an impact on the entire population.
Emergency Medical Care: Last season, injured turtles arrived from every corner of Ontario. Because prompt medial care can be the difference between life and death, KTTC recently held a Turtle Trauma Workshop to help train veterinarians and rehabilitators from a variety of organizations across Ontario in the art of emergency turtle medicine. With this training, these organizations are ready to act as emergency triage centres, giving injured turtles the immediate help they need, and getting them onto the road to recovery sooner. It can be a challenge transporting patients over such long distances, but our volunteers are up to the task! Our network of over 55 Turtle Taxi volunteers is instrumental in the transport of injured turtles from all parts of Ontario, often taking part in a ‘turtle relay’ to cover long distances and get our patients admitted to KTTC quickly for ongoing care.
Turtle Nursery: Each turtle admitted to KTTC – once stabilized with fluids, painkillers, antibiotics, and wound management – is x-rayed to check for internal injuries and to see the females are still carrying eggs. If there are eggs, we provide the turtle with a nesting box, so she can lay her eggs naturally. The eggs are then moved to a nest container and incubated in our Turtle Nursery. The 350 turtles successfully hatched last season were from four different turtle species, and most were quickly released back in the ponds and marshes near to where their mother was found. 120 babies were kept over the winter, to give them more of a “headstart” in life, and are now being released. Once we have more space available we will be able to offer more hatchlings the benefit of a “headstart”.
KTTC has been at full capacity throughout the winter months with over 200 turtles in our care, many of which were too injured to be released in the fall. As we now arrange their releases, the phones are ringing and newly injured turtles are arriving at the centre daily. KTTC Staff and volunteers in our Turtle Care and Turtle Taxi programs are busy training, preparing, and bracing for the new season. 2012 promises to be another record-breaker!
But Wait! We Need Your Help!
Unfortunately, we are still facing one of our biggest obstacles yet… LACK OF SPACE! While our current building could easily manage the 50-80 injured turtles that we used to admit, we now are admitting 10 times that number!! We have become a victim of our own success, and are quickly outgrowing our resources and running out of space. The need for a new building is becoming desperate as we try to cram more and more turtles into our tiny 1,500 square feet of space. If we do not find a new building soon, we will be forced to confront the reality of limiting the number of turtles we are able to admit in 2012. To admit more turtles than our space allows would jeopardize the overall quality of care we are able to give to ALL of our turtle patients! We have been busy training a large group of amazing turtle care volunteers who are more than willing to help us care for more and more turtles, but frustratingly, we simply lack the space to do so.
Please spread the word! We need to secure a building that KTTC can grow into, so we can continue to provide high-quality, specialized care to the turtles injured on Ontario’s roadways.
As we dive headfirst into the new season, we also need your help to be able to provide the best medical and rehabilitative care to Ontario’s turtles. The cost of the various medications and medical supplies, as well as specialized food, lighting, filters, tanks, etc., adds up quickly. Turtles are very slow to heal and often remain in our care for a full year! Please make a donation, or contact us if you have a potential source for the donation of supplies.
Donate or become a member today to support KTTC in our ongoing efforts to help secure a place for turtles in Ontario for generations to come!
Thank you for your support and for helping us help turtles!
Dr. Sue Carstairs,
Kawartha Turtle Trauma Centre