Growing up in Michigan sparked my ever-growing interest in nature. With the Midwest’s extreme seasonal changes comes a diverse array of plants and wildlife that have long fascinated me. As time has moved on, I’ve learned that some of those native species are becoming increasingly threatened.
Each year, Blanding’s turtles travel up to a mile from their habitat in the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in Saginaw, Mich., to lay eggs. Unfortunately, the great distance traveled make the turtles highly prone to automobile-related deaths and leave their nests vulnerable to predators once the turtles return to the NWR.
The Detroit Zoological Society recently partnered with the Herpetological Resource and Management (HRM) near Jackson, Mich., to lend a hand to the Blanding’s turtle. For this project, 93 eggs were collected from nests and incubated for 49-to-80 days at the HRM. Next, the hatchlings were distributed between the HRM and the Detroit Zoo to begin a nurturing process dubbed “head starting”. Once they’ve grown to be four inches in length, the Detroit Zoo’s 63 head-started hatchlings will be returned to their habitat in the Shiawassee NWR, where they could live up to 60 years.
“This is a good opportunity for us to do local conservation work on a species of special concern in Michigan,” said Detroit Zoo Curator of Reptiles Jeff Jundt. “The incubation and nurturing process will serve as a temporary solution to help the species thrive until its native living conditions at Shiawassee can be stabilized.”
We often think of protecting wildlife in terms of far-away places with endangered exotic species. It’s good to know that organizations like the Detroit Zoo are helping local species that face challenges to their survival.