The Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre is receiving an additional $250,000 from the provincial government to mitigate threats to at-risk turtle species in Ontario, as part of up to $4.5 million in funding for 80 projects under Ontario’s Species at Risk Stewardship Program.
David Piccini, Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks and MPP for Northumberland-Peterborough South, made the funding announcement at the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre at 1434 Chemong Road in Selwyn on Friday (March 11), where he was joined by the centre’s executive and medical director Dr. Sue Carstairs, Peterborough-Kawartha MPP Dave Smith, and Trent University vice-president of research and innovation Cathy Bruce.
“The on-the-ground work carried out by stewardship organizations is extremely important to protecting at-risk plants and wildlife in Ontario,” Piccini said in a media release. “Our government is proud to support its partners and the many important research and recovery projects they are undertaking this year to help preserve our province’s rich biodiversity for generations to come.”
The Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre is one of several multi-year projects receiving funding under the Species at Risk Stewardship Program, which was created under the Endangered Species Act to encourage people to get involved in protecting and recovering species at risk through stewardship activities.
Trent University is also receiving multi-year funding for three research projects: assessing changes in population size and genetic structure to determine population targets for self-sustaining populations of small-mouthed salamander and unisexual ambystoma on Pelee Island, and evaluating value and feasibility of conservation interventions; studying the conservation genomics of the Lake Superior caribou by investigating evolutionary origins, inbreeding, and adaption to identify priorities for habitat connectivity; and delineating boreal and eastern migratory ranges and investigating metapopulation dynamics of boreal caribou using genome-wide data from non-invasively collected samples.
Elsewhere in the greater Kawarthas region, Haliburton Highlands Land Trust is receiving new funding to search for species at risk in the Haliburton Highlands, to increase knowledge, awareness, and stewardship of species at risk through surveys for branched bartonia (a threatened spindly flowering plant) and ‘lost’ lady beetles, while engaging the community with outreach and education.
“I’m grateful to Minister Piccini for his leadership on this file,” Smith said. “Last summer, he joined us on a tour of the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre and we saw firsthand the critical work they do, being the only such centre in all of Ontario. This historic investment will strengthen their work in ecological restoration and rehabilitation projects locally and across the province.”
The funding for the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre will be used to protect and recover at-risk turtles through rehabilitation of adult turtles, education, field research, and disease surveillance.
All eight turtle species found in Ontario are considered at risk under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act: spiny softshell (endangered), spotted turtle (endangered), wood turtle (endangered), eastern box turtle (extirpated — no longer found in Ontario), snapping turtle (special concern), northern map turtle (special concern), eastern musk turtle (special concern), and blanding’s turtle (threatened).
The Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre rehabilitates around 1,500 injured turtles each year and hatches as many as 5,000 turtle eggs each year from injured turtles, introducing the hatchlings back into their native environments.
“The Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre greatly appreciates the funding provided by the Species at Risk Stewardship Program to support our many vital conservation programs,” Carstairs said.