A Head Start for State-Endangered Turtles

Two dozen tiny turtles have taken up temporary residence in Shedd’s animal hospital. These new arrivals are getting a “head start” in the aquarium as part of a new long-term partnership with the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County to keep Blanding’s turtles, an endangered species in Illinois, moving toward recovery.

Reversing a rapid decline
Shedd is adding its expertise, including microbiome research, to the head-start program begun in 1996 by the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County.

At that time, local populations of the semiaquatic species were threatened by rapid loss of their wetland habitats, increasing automobile traffic and a host of voracious predators that were consuming both eggs and hatchlings. Surveys showed populations were skewed heavily toward adult turtles, indicating few juveniles survived to maintain the species’ numbers.

Getting ready for release
The group of young turtles at Shedd, collected as eggs and hatched by DuPage County Forest Preserve District ecologists, will live—and grow—in accommodations with their own life-support system and other husbandry needs for a year. The expert care they receive at Shedd will give them a significant survival advantage for their eventual reintroduction.

Next August or September, the yearlings will be released into protected sites within the DuPage County forest preserves, and another batch of hatchlings will take up residence in the animal hospital's "head-start room."

The turtles, easily identified by their bright yellow chins and throats and dark, slightly domed shells sporting white ID numbers, soon will be viewable by webcam on behind-the-scenes tours.