“Behold the turtle. He makes progress only when he sticks his neck out,” said James Bryant Conant. Thanks to a $500,000 multi-state grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Toledo Zoo and its partners are sticking their necks out to conserve native Blanding’s turtles.
Blanding’s turtles (Emydoidea blandingii), a once-common species, have recently experienced range-wide declines. According to the Zoo’s conservation biologist, Matt Cross, Ph.D., this species is easily identified by its yellow chin and throat and is a conservation concern throughout the United States and Canada. “Blanding’s turtles have state conservation status in 14 of the 15 U.S. states in which they occur, are considered endangered by the International Union of Conservation Scientists (IUCN), listed as a CITIES II species and have been petitioned for federal listing under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. In Ohio and Michigan, they are species of greatest conservation need and listed as threatened and special concern, respectively.”
With this grant, Toledo Zoo and partners from the Ohio Biodiversity Conservation Partnership, Michigan Natural Features Inventory, Purdue University Ft. Wayne, Ohio Division of Wildlife and Michigan Department of Natural Resources, will survey sites with recent and historic Blanding’s turtle activity throughout northwest Ohio and southeastern Michigan. To assess the turtle population, the group will utilize a combination of multi-technique field survey, genetic analyses and models to inform and prioritize future management efforts. Field surveys will also provide data for monitoring trends in Blanding’s turtle populations and identify critical habitat. Assessments will take place April – September for the next two years, and in 2021 the partners will meet to plan continued conservation efforts.
“The Zoo began researching and monitoring Blanding’s turtles as part of our local conservation work in 2005. Since then, we have collected the only long-term dataset on this and other associated turtle species in the marshes of Lake Erie and the Oak Openings region. With this grant and the partnerships it provides, we look forward to learning more about this incredible and imperiled native species, strategizing additional conservation management and overall helping this species survive and thrive in our own backyard,” said Cross.