Western painted turtles are locally endangered

Langley turtle conservation program praised

Turtle recovery continues to gather steam in Aldergrove.

A helping hand for some tiny terrapins has brought praise to a Langley zoo.

The Greater Vancouver Zoo has won the Peter Karsten’s Conservation Award for its efforts to help the western painted turtle. The award comes from Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums (CAZA) and goes to an individual or institutional achievement in the field of conservation.

For the past three years, the zoo and its partners have established a “head starting” program, bringing in eggs, breeding turtles, and releasing them into the wild once they had been reared. Releasing full-grown individuals increases the turtles’ chances of survival.

The animals were released at sites determined by the Western Painted Turtle Recovery Team.

Last year some of the turtles were released with radio transmitters glued to their shells for tracking purposes, so biologists could learn more about their behaviour, movements, and habitat needs.

In 2013, the program released 73 hatchlings. That was increased to 120 from the 2014 hatchlings, and 130 hatchlings hatched this year are scheduled for release in 2016.

“There is very little known about hatchling and juvenile turtle behaviour/movements and habitat needs, this data will help to inform this species’ conservation,” said wildlife biologist Andrea Gielens.

The Pacific Coast population of the western painted turtle is endangered at present.

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