Sunday, December 13, 2009
HOUSE OF HERPS
How exciting, a new blog carnival, and one that is near and dear to me! Bugs and Birds get all kinds of sites but at last the Herps get their own spot to shine :) Don't get me wrong, I enjoy lots of Bug and Bird sites but it is most definitely a good thing that we now have a place to celebrate the Herps too at House of Herps.
Those of you who follow my blog know that I am actively involved in Blanding's Turtle Conservation Restoration. So they seemed like an obvious choice for my first post for the House of Herps. Not that this is a particularly busy time of year as far as field work goes. Hopefully all the turtles we released in the fall are buried down deep in the mud, out of harms way and we won't be going out tracking them again until it warms up, probably around mid May.
Then we will don our chest waders and plod off into the wetland and see how many of them we can track down.
In the mean time here at the Museum we continue to work to raise public awareness about the perils that this particular species faces. We have a wonderful custom-made tank where we show several hatchlings from this year as well as a couple of juvenile females that will eventually become part of the captive breeding program.
The tank is fitted with one-way glass so that the hatchlings will not get too habituated to humans before they are released, and their growth rates are carefully monitored.
We have just started a new public program timed to coincide with when the status of the Blanding's was elevated in the state of Illinois from threatened to endangered. The program educates visitors about why this species is struggling, the work that is being done throughout the state to help it and the ecology of this 'Great Lakes Turtle.'
Along with so many other organizations, we were hit by funding cuts this year which meant that the turtles we released in October were not equipped with the usual radio trackers. At $200 a pop, it is an expensive business! Instead we had to rely on carefully photographing the plastron of each individual prior to release, in the hopes that if one of them should wander into one of our traps in the future we will be able to identify it from the photo. Not an ideal system as the patterning does change over time.
In order to try and be better prepared for fall 2010 we have just launched a fund-raising scheme to encourage people to help with the work we do. We are going to use any monies raised to purchase more radio trackers for the turtles released in October.
With the extra transmitters we will be able to get a much more accurate picture of survival rates. It is also often possible even if a turtle doesn't survive to track down the transmitter and work out the cause of death. All this information will help us to create environments that will give this enigmatic creature the best chances of survival in an increasingly perilous world.
Photo Credits - CJT, & Vincent
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