CHICAGO (CBS) — The Shedd Aquarium is raising 24 endangered Blanding’s turtle hatchlings, before releasing them into the wild once they’re grown, to bolster native populations.
The baby turtles will remain in the care of Shedd Aquarium staff for the next year, until they’re the appropriate size and weight to be reintroduced to their natural habitat in a DuPage County forest preserve.
It’s the third year the Shedd is partnering with the DuPage County Forest Preserve District’s head-start program to safely raise young turtles and release them into the wild.
Aquarium visitors won’t be able to see the hatchlings, to minimize contact with humans so they don’t become habituated to people.
Shedd staff will take regular measurements of the turtles, and feed them a variety of live foods they will need to learn to catch on their own once they’re released.
“With our experience caring for 26 species of turtles onsite, we were well-positioned to join the Forest Preserve District’s collaborative recovery effort for this endangered species,” said Dr. Matt O’Connor, senior staff veterinarian at Shedd Aquarium.
Blandings turtles are known for their distinctive yellow throat and chin, which create the appearance of a permanent smile. They are endangered in Illinois after suffering a drastic population decline over the years. Some of the causes include predation, loss of habitat by humans and roadside deaths.
While you won’t be able to see the hatchlings at the Shedd, you can support conservation effort by planning a visit to see many other species of turtles from around the world. Shedd Aquarium is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends, but tickets must be purchased in advance as part of their effort to limit crowds and prevent the spread of COVID-19.
You can also join the DuPage County Forest Preserve District’s adopt a turtle program. participate in Shedd’s virtual programs, become a Shedd member, raise your voice for federal support for aquariums and zoos, or donate to the Shedd to support this effort.