Haliburton’s turtle guardians are taking the safe hatching of eggs into their own hands. The Land Between charity began its first-ever turtle incubation program in June.
The group has gathered 2,000 eggs for Haliburton, with another 13,000 amassed at Scales Nature Park through a partnership. Founder and chief operating officer Leora Berman said the odds of a turtle hatched from captivity reaching maturity is four times greater than a turtle hatched in the wild. With human centres and traffic devastating turtle populations, Berman said it is an important program.
“Turtles are essential agents of biodiversity … If we don’t have turtles out there, we’re basically screwed,” Berman said. “We’re giving the turtle population a little boost.”
Berman said the program is going well so far and they are pleased with the number of eggs they have gathered. She added it is important for the area, given the bioregion houses about 30 per cent of the provincial turtle population.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created difficulties for the charity, Berman said, with funding sources drying up. It has also caused it to cancel its day camp programming. But she added the organization still has a strong volunteer base that has helped it continue its operations.
“It’s forced us to look at new ways of reaching people,” Berman said. “There are stronger relationships with our volunteers, so we are relying more on our volunteers because of the funding cuts.”
Part of that volunteer base is getting involved in the charity’s citizen scientist programs, launched this year to engage people in helping further local research. Activities include turtle nest sitting, watching for reptiles on roads, and recording evening bird calls.
“With more bodies on the road and more eyes on the road, we can help more turtles,” Land Between senior conservation technician Meredith Karcz said. “To create sustainable change for turtles and wildlife, you need to get people interested. We wanted to create a program that’s fun for kids, fun for families, fun for retired people.”
The turtle eggs are due to hatch around September. Berman said they hope to continue the incubation program in perpetuity.
“We want to continue this forever, until turtles are not threatened. Until our fish and wildlife are stable,” she said.