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CHICAGO — 22 Blanding’s turtles were released into the wild at the Forest Preserves of DuPage County, after being raised by zookeepers at the Brookfield Zoo.
It’s part of a decades-long effort to rebuild the population of the tiny ectotherms – a.k.a. cold-blooded animals.
“What’s really unique about them this year is that 10 of them were captively raised and bred at Brookfield Zoo,” said wildlife ecologist Dan Thompson.
Jeff Bocek was part of the team at the suburban Chicagoland zoo raising turtles.
“I have been the first one to find a baby turtle out there and it was really cool,” Bocek said. “Kind of like all of our work paid off.”
Baby Blanding’s turtles are barely larger than an average person’s thumb, while the adults grow to be about the size of a human palm.
The forest preserves have done the work of rebuilding the Blanding’s turtle population for 25 years, and they’ve found success in their efforts. Thompson said that the age structure has diversified and the population has steadily grown.
“”We can push species to the brink of extinction or they just can’t even persist here anymore,” Thompson said. “But to recover them – that doesn’t happen overnight. That just takes an awful lot of work.”