Turtles were here when the dinosaurs roamed. Today they are found in every biome in the world and are an essential part of our ecosystems. They provide services to support the survival of fish and wildlife and they also provide support for our own health and well-being. For instance, Snapping turtles are the best at cleaning dangerous bacteria from water and lakes by eating dead and decaying matter- and they are gentle in the water too!
Turtle populations have declined globally in the last 20 years by more than 50%. All of Ontario's turtles are species-at-risk. Seven of Ontario’s eight native turtle species are found in the Land Between bioregion between the Georgian Bay Coast and the Ottawa Valley. In fact this strip of land harbours more than 1/3 of all Ontario’s turtles.
Why are turtles declining? Some turtles, such as Snapping turtles, are killed by humans for food or who mistake them as dangerous to have in lakes and ponds. Turtles are taken out of the wild breeding populations to be kept as pets. Turtle habitats are destroyed. Predation by raccoons, skunks and foxes is a major problem for turtle nests. However, the major problem facing turtles today are roads!
Adult turtles are important to keep populations stable because it takes, on average, over 30 years-and often up to 80 years- for a turtle to replace itself in the environment (for an egg to successfully hatch and then for the hatchling to make it to adulthood). Adult turtles don’t have many natural threats to their survival - but human actions are causing harm- especially on roads. Also more often turtles on roads are females (60%) and road shoulders have become choice nesting sites also leaving hatchlings at greater risk to road traffic and road maintenance.
Turtle Guardians are future leaders. They help to monitor and conserve turtles and turtle habitats. They help to report turtle sightings which help biologists understand population dynamics, threats, and needs. They help to increase survival of turtles and turtle eggs through stewardship actions. They help conduct turtle tunnel assessments, road surveys, monitor wetlands, and more! Turtle Guardians have access to training, workshops, presentations, online resources- and also custom curriculum delivered through Ontario schools.
The Turtle Guardian Program delivery area for workshops, training, and research is focused in The Land Between- a region harboring the highest density and over 1/3 of Ontario's turtle population.
A Group Effort
Few conservation groups in Ontario are focused on helping to conserve and monitor turtles. Those with this ambition and mandate have joined together to create the Turtle Guardian program. By joining efforts, we can better support turtle conservation and research in Ontario; and Turtle Guardians benefit from all of our resources. The Land Between charity is the backbone of this effort providing the framework and delivery of the program, but without our key partners, nothing would be achieved. Also, Turtle Guardians has received invaluable funding support from the Ontario Trillium Foundation to grow this program across the province!