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John Ball Zoo monitoring regional turtle populations to aid in conservation

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Great Lakes Rare Turtles Program finds key data on turtle ecology 

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – John Ball Zoo’s conservation team is monitoring spotted turtles to collect data and aid in their conservation. 

Turtles are in trouble around the world and locally due to predators such as raccoons and dangerous road crossings. The Great Lakes Rare Turtle Program headed by John Ball Zoo works to address substantial threats facing several turtle species found in the West Michigan region. 

The Great Lakes Rare Turtle Program includes field work on spotted turtles, which is currently underway. Spotted turtles are a threatened species in Michigan. Through this project, the Zoo and Michigan Natural Features Inventory monitor multiple sites for spotted turtles to learn about their distribution, demography and population dynamics. The team marks, weighs and measures the turtles and notes their condition. 

“Turtles are one of the most endangered groups of vertebrates, with their population numbers declining dramatically across the world,” said Bill Flanagan, conservation manager at John Ball Zoo. “John Ball Zoo is working with our partners to preserve this key part of our biodiversity and have a big, positive impact for turtles.” 

Along with the Michigan Natural Features Inventory, John Ball Zoo works with the Michigan Department of Natural ResourcesPierce Cedar Creek Institute, and Grand Valley State University on multiple conservation projects to help turtles. 

Data collected on spotted turtles is then made available to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, as well as the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, to aid providing additional conservation strategies for turtles. 

Monitoring spotted turtles is just one aspect of the Zoo’s efforts to preserve the regional turtle population, along with preserving nests for endangered wood turtles to protect them from raccoon predation and head starting box turtles, which involves raising baby turtles at the Zoo until they are more likely to survive in the wild. John Ball Zoo also leads a project to monitor popular road crossing locations for turtles as they move between wetland areas for feeding and mating. Learn more about John Ball Zoo’s conservation projects.

Spotted turtle monitoring photos courtesy of John Ball Zoo.  

About John Ball Zoo 

John Ball Zoo is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation founded in 1891 and located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Guided by the five core values of Conservation, Education, Community, Celebration and Compassion, John Ball Zoo accomplishes the mission to inspire our community to be actively engaged in the conservation of wildlife and wild places. As a conservation organization, John Ball Zoo works to protect wildlife and wild places, starting right here in our Great Lakes region. John Ball Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, demonstrating that we hold ourselves to the highest standards in animal care and welfare. 

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