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Baby Blanding’s turtles released in Rouge Valley

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TORONTO – Conservationists have high hopes for 21 endangered baby turtles that were released Tuesday into a pond in the proposed Rouge National Urban Park.

As few as six Blanding’s turtles survived in the Rouge Valley — located in the northeastern corner of the city — before 10 of the turtles were released last year into a pond located in the proposed national urban park.

The Toronto Zoo, Parks Canada, and Toronto and Region Conservation Authority joined in an effort to release another 21 of the indigenous turtles at the park on Tuesday.

“Blanding’s turtles are amazing creatures and in some ways they’re a poster child for endangered species. By helping them, we also help countless other wetland animals and plants,” said Andrew Lentini, curator of Amphibians and Reptiles at the Toronto Zoo.

In a careful process, the turtle eggs were collected in 2013 from an area in southern Ontario where there’s a stable population. Since then, the turtles have been raised at the Toronto Zoo.

The University of Toronto and Parks Canada will monitor the progress of the Blanding’s turtles — recognized by Ontario’s Endangered Species Act — in the Rouge Valley.

“Our government is committed to protecting the natural environment in Rouge National Urban Park by protecting wildlife and enhancing biodiversity,” federal Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq said.

People are asked to avoid the turtles’ nesting areas and contact authorities if they see anyone harming the creatures.