The Brookfield Zoo is working to make sure Blanding’s turtles don’t go extinct.
The Chicago Zoological Society, which manages the zoo, along with the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, are leading a breeding and release program to increase the local wild population of Blanding’s turtles. This species of turtle is endangered in Illinois and threatened nationwide.
Later this fall, 12 turtles will be released in DuPage County forest preserves to help bolster the wild population. Prior to the release, the turtles will be housed at Dragonfly Marsh and will grow in the predator-proof area until ready for release.
Unlike other rearing programs, the turtles will go through normal seasonal cycles by remaining outdoors all year at a small off-exhibit pond on the zoo’s grounds. This will help prepare them for life in various weather and temperatures and habitat changes. The space at the zoo replicates the turtles’ natural habitat and will be filled with native plants and logs.
The turtles will forage on their own for food sources, such as snails, slugs, and small fish. While food is supplemented, the turtles will hunt for it and will not be handled.
In addition to the planned release, Brookfield Zoo has created an off-exhibit breeding space for Blanding’s turtles that will house 30 to 40 female turtles in the future. The turtles there potentially could produce 250 to 300 hatchlings per year.
After the initial release of turtles this fall, additional releases will continue to occur with turtles bred at the zoo as the program progresses.