In the News
After a Big Winter, Blanding's
Turtles Returned to the Wild
Wednesday was a graduation day of sorts for four Blanding’s turtles (Emydoidea blandingii) that arrived on Central Wharf in October as part of a headstart program to help the threatened species.
The four, which were returned to the Groton, MA, wetlands area from which they came, are part of Zoo New England’s Grassroots Wildlife Conservation Program, which aids about 100 of these turtles each year.
The quartet of turtles was featured in a First Friday Facebook Live in November, about a month after the Aquarium began taking care of them. At that time, they were weeks old, weighed about 10 grams, and were about the size of a half dollar. On Wednesday, when they were released, they weighed about 200 to 300 grams—about the size of a 3- to 4-year-old turtle in the wild.
At left, Aquarium educator Taylor Engelsman holds one of the four Blanding’s turtles last October and …
on Wednesday morning before they were released back into the wild.
Each year, turtle hatchlings are picked up in early autumn and distributed to several sites, including school classrooms and wildlife organizations around Massachusetts, and are raised indoors for the winter. The turtles are fed a lot during a time when they normally would be dormant. Their handlers try to get the turtles as big as possible so they are better protected from predators and more likely to survive and breed in the wild. Zoo New England estimates that the headstarted turtles have about a 30 times better chance of surviving to adulthood. Over the years, Zoo New England’s program has overseen the successful headstarting and release of hundreds of young Blanding’s turtles at five sites in eastern Massachusetts.
And if all goes right, the turtles could live to be 70 years old and grow to a length of just shy of a foot.
See more pictures
On Wednesday, the turtles were taken to the Groton area, weighed, and some were fitted with radio tags for further tracking. This allows for researchers to monitor the turtles and their nests through the late summer. As soon as the turtles’ eggs hatch, the researchers, aided by volunteers, will gather hatchlings and bring them inside and begin the process all over again!
Watch the First Friday Facebook Live episode from last November to learn more about Blanding’s turtles and the headstart program.
First Friday Facebook Live: Blanding's Turtles
At the Aquarium
While the young headstart turtles remained behind the scenes during their stay at the Aquarium, there is one special Blanding’s turtle that makes appearances during our Live Animal Presentations. Learn more on our blog about Skip and other marine animals you can meet during Live Animal Presentations.
The Aquarium has also been involved in a headstart program for northern red-bellied cooters. Read about that effort and more about Blanding’s turtles on our blog.