What does all this mean? This means that every adult turtle saved is important for that population. And that the early death of an adult turtle has a much greater impact on the population than the death of a hatchling or juvenile. .. Because so few turtles ever reach sexual maturity, each adult turtle is part of an elite group destined to live and breed for many years in order to perpetuate the species. Removing an adult turtle has a negative impact on the population – and saving a turtle has a beneficial impact on the population as a whole.
At OTCC, the hospital remains the ‘hub’ of our conservation initiatives. Since many of the female turtles admitted are carrying eggs, we also ensure that none of these eggs are lost. We collect, incubate, hatch and release these babies, back to the mother’s wetland. In 2017 alone, we incubated over 3600 eggs! While most of these would not have survived in the wild, we can increase their survival by hatching them at the centre, and by releasing many of them at a larger size, to increase survival even more.
Our field work is following a group of these ‘headstarted’ Blanding’s turtles, to ensure we maximize their survival, and increase their chance of going on to add to the adult population. This is a long-term study, going into the seventh year.
While the hospital helps to reverse the impact of roads on turtles, the ideal goal is to actually PREVENT them being injured or killed, in the first place. This requires:
- Education – We reach many thousands of people each year through our education and outreach program. Teaching the public about the plight of our turtles, will help to the protect them in the future. Our programs teach all aspects of turtle conservation, and individual stewardship practices, including how to avoid them on the roads, which roads to watch out for, and how to move them off the road. If only one in ten people then save only one turtle, this still equates to thousands more turtles saved!
- Ecopassages – ecopassages are structures which allow wildlife to cross roads without going ON the road. For turtles, this usually involves using an under-road culvert to provide safe passage. Special fencing set up on either side of the culvert, guide the turtle into the culvert and allows them to cross. These are becoming more and more common and hopefully will become standard installations. The MTO is working alongside communities and individuals across the province, to implement these.
While road signage helps alert drivers, only the ecopassages seem to prevent mortalities significantly.