PHOTOS: Box Turtles hatch at Lincoln Park, Brookfield Zoo

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CHICAGO— The last of 26 ornate box turtles have hatched at Lincoln Park Zoo and Brookfield Zoo this week as a part of an effort to restore native populations in Western Illinois.

According to a press release from zoo officials, the hatchlings come from nine different clutches provided by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS).

The turtles will remain at their respective zoos for several months to lessen the threat of predation or disease.

Once the animals are larger and stronger, they will be re-introduced into sand prairies protected by the Upper Mississippi National Wildlife and Fish Refuge in Savannah, Ill., according to the release.

Diane Mulkerin, curator for Lincoln Park Zoo said, “Each year we learn more about ornate box turtles and their preferred temperature for incubation and what conditions best enable them to grow before returning to their native habitat. The collaboration among conservation organizations enables us to take the head-start program one step further by increasing the number of turtles we re-introduce each year.”

For more information on Lincoln Park Zoo visit www.lpzoo.org and for more information on CZS/Brookfield Zoo visit www.czs.org.