Endangered Pond Turtles Released to the Wild

Western pond turtles

Endangered western pond turtles about to be released to the wild. Photo credits: Kirsten Pisto/Woodland Park Zoo

The Woodland Park Zoo and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife released over a hundred endangered western pond turtles to their native habitat in an effort to restore the population.

Western pond turtles once commonly inhabited the western coast of the United States. But several threats, including predation by the non-native bullfrog, disease, and habitat loss, put them on the bring of extinction since the early 90s.

In 1991, the Western Pond Turtle Recovery Project was established. Each year, recovery workers monitor adult female western pond turtles during the nesting season. They protect nesting sites with wire cages to prevent predators from eating the eggs. Then in the fall, the eggs and hatchlings are transported to the Woodland Park and Oregon Zoos where they can grow in safety.

“We return the turtles to their homes every summer once they reach a suitable size of about 2 ounces, a safeguard against the large mouths of bullfrogs,” explained Dr. Jennifer Pramuk, Woodland Park Zoo’s reptile curator.

Western pond turtle being released

Over a hundred western pond turtles were released to the wild by the Woodland Park Zoo and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Photo by Kirsten Pisto.

For more photos, see the Woodland Park Zoo’s blog.

Rare Zoo-Raised Turtles Released to Wild

The Lincoln Park Zoo in conjunction with the US Fish & Wildlife Service is working to repopulate prairie land with native wildlife.

Ornate box turtle

A zoo-raised ornate box turtle prepares for release into the wild. Photo by Sharon Dewar / Lincoln Park Zoo.

Their most recent release was 18 ornate box turtle hatchlings in the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge near Savanna, Illinois. The zoo is also recovering other prairie-dwelling wildlife including meadow jumping mice and smooth green snakes.

“Suitable habitat is being created, but many species have trouble accessing it due to fragmentation from roads and other physical barriers which makes re-colonization of restored sites improbable,” explained Allison Sacerdote-Velat, Ph.D. reintroduction biologist at Lincoln Park Zoo.

“These collaborative conservation partnerships are terrific because each agency brings a unique expertise. The zoo specializes in small population biology and animal care. We can successfully breed, hatch and care for these species until they are large and mature enough for release to the wild – a technique called ‘head-starting’ which gives them a greater chance of survival upon release.”

Ornate box turtle

An ornate box turtle taking its first steps in the prairie. Photo by Sharon Dewar / Lincoln Park Zoo.

Learn more about the release at the Lincoln Park Zoo website.

Snapping Turtle Crittercam

Greg Marshall, inventor of the Crittercam (a camera that attaches to animals to record their activity from their perspective) came to Connecticut to work with Mystic Aquarium turtle expert Dr. Tobias Landberg.  Together they figured out a safe and secure method to attach the Crittercam to a snapping turtle’s shell.  They released the turtle into the wild and will be able to learn about its habits and movements in the water.

The Mystic Aquarium has used the Crittercam before on beluga whales.

SeaWorld Rescues Two Endangered Baby Turtles

SeaWorld Orlando‘s animal rescue team is currently caring for two hawksbill turtle hatchlings.  Both are about two months old. One of the babies was found in a weakened, lethargic state on Melbourne Beach in Florida by a tourist.  The other hatchling was found on Cocoa Beach covered in algae and fauna.

Baby hawksbill turtle found lethargic on Melbourne Beach.

Baby hawksbill turtle found lethargic on Melbourne Beach.

Baby hawksbill turtle found on Cocoa Beach covered in algae and fauna.

Baby hawksbill turtle found on Cocoa Beach covered in algae and fauna.

SeaWorld turtle experts (or aquarists), are monitoring and caring for the turtles around the clock. The hatchlings are living in a brooder (a heated shelter) which is kept at a constant 84 degrees F. Although recovery will be tough, the turtles are showing positive signs.

Hawksbill turtles are considered critically endangered by the IUCN Redlist due to loss of habitat and human exploitation.

Sea Turtle Hatchlings Enter Gulf Waters

Sea turtle hatchlings

Photo: Alabama Convention and Visitors Bureau

Seventy-three loggerhead sea turtles hatched at an Alabama beach Wednesday and entered the waters into the northern Gulf of Mexico.

For the past two months, scientists have deemed the Gulf of Mexico unsafe for sea turtle hatchlings due to BP’s catastrophic oil spill.  They have transported 28,000 eggs from Alabama and Panhandle beaches to Florida’s Atlantic coast.  After incubation at a Kennedy Space Center facility, the hatchlings were released into the Atlantic at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.

However, after further examination of the Gulf waters, scientists have determined the northern Gulf of Mexico is now safe for sea turtles.

According to Dianne Ingram of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, “It was a good decision based on the best information we can get. It was more risky to ship them to Florida than it was to let them go straight into the water.”

The group of loggerhead hatchlings that entered the Gulf Wednesday was the first batch in Alabama allowed to enter their native waters.

For more information: AL.com.

Exhibit Review: Crittercam

Crittercam

Last week, we wrote about Crittercam, an exhibit presented by the Museum of Science, Boston and National Geographic.  Yesterday, we had the opportunity to visit the exhibit in person.

Crittercam provides a fascinating look into the behavior of several kinds of animals including penguins, seals, sea turtles, sharks, lions, bears, and more.  Using cameras attached to various animals, scientists were able to gather data about hunting techniques, social norms, and daily activity that had previously eluded them.  The exhibit provides video footage captured by the animals along with explanatory text and a few fun facts about the animals discussed.

Lioness wearing CrittercamBut the exhibit also delves into the technology and methodology of Crittercam.  There are models of animals showing how the special cameras were attached and adapted to a particular animal’s lifestyle.

For example, the soft, flexible shells of leatherback sea turtles did not allow the camera to be attached by an adhesive. Instead, a suction cup was applied to the central plate of the turtle’s shell.

Using videos, photos, life-size models, and computer kiosks, the exhibit appeals to an audience of all ages and interests. So if you live in or plan to visit the Boston area, be sure to visit Crittercam at the Museum of Science, which runs through August 30.

For more info: Crittercam.

News of the Harry Potter Exhibition arrives via owl***

During our visit, the museum made an exciting announcement (delivered by an owl) about a very special international exhibition that will open in Boston on October 25, 2009 called Harry Potter: The Exhibition.

Fans of Harry Potter will soon get the chance to immerse themselves in the wizarding world.  Artifacts and costumes from the latest Harry Potter films will be displayed in a 10,000-sq. ft. space.

For more info, see: Harry Potter: The Exhibition.