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CONFERENCE SCHEDULE UPDATES & CHANGES: As a result of the prolonged government shutdown, we experienced a number of cancellations and changes to the schedule. Cancellations and changes are listed here (as of January 26, 2019). 
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Tuesday, January 29 • 3:40pm - 4:00pm
(WILDLIFE: TURTLES) Survivability of Head-Started Blanding’s Turtles (Emydoidea blandingii) In Canada’s Rouge National Urban Park

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AUTHORS: Katherine Wright, Crystal Robertson, Paul Yannuzzi, Shannon Ritchie, Andrew Lentini, Bob Johnson, Rick Vos – Adopt-A-Pond Wetland Conservation Programme, Toronto Zoo

ABSTRACT: A head-start program for Blanding’s turtles (Emydoidea blandingii) was launched in 2012 by Toronto Zoo’s Adopt-A-Pond Wetland Conservation Programme and partners in an effort to recover a local population in the Rouge National Urban Park (RNUP). As per a Population Viability Analysis (PVA) in 2013, reaching a self-sustaining population required raising 50 turtles per year for two years each at a 60 female: 40 male ratio over 20 years. The head-start turtles are incubated and raised in a protected zoo environment, which includes a month in outdoor enclosures to acclimate to natural conditions. Then, a soft-release enclosure is used with half of the cohort for in-situ to acclimate to their new wetland prior to release into the wild, while a hard-release method is used for the other half (no in-situ acclimation). The release site is known habitat for Blanding’s turtles and is in close proximity to travel corridors, though many head-start turtles remain in the wetland area in which they were released. No significant difference has been observed between home ranges of soft- and hard-release turtles. The number of turtles released per cohort has increased each year (2014: 10, 2015: 21, 2016: 36, 2017: 49, and 2018: 49), as have cumulative survival rates (2018 data is still being incorporated). Survival, movement, and habitat use patterns are monitored by radio tracking a subset of turtles from each release cohort, which occurs three times per week from May-August and once per month from December-April. The number of tracked turtles from each cohort changes yearly as more turtles are released. In 2018, a total of 48 turtles were tracked out of the 165 that have been released to date. This long-term project will use adaptive management to improve husbandry, field research, habitat restoration and community outreach as the project progresses.

Tuesday January 29, 2019 3:40pm - 4:00pm EST