The OTCC operates a hospital for Ontario’s native turtle species – the only wild turtle hospital accredited by College of Veterinarians of Ontario (CVO). Two full time veterinarians and four seasonal veterinarians, along with veterinary technicians and animal care staff, care for more than 1,500 injured and ill turtles annually. Turtles are admitted from all over Ontario, via a network of First Responder veterinarians and Turtle Taxi Volunteers. Once healed, these turtles are released back to their home wetlands.
Since half of the turtles admitted are females, and a lot of these are gravid (carrying eggs), the eggs are saved, incubated, and hatched at the Centre. Approximately 5,000 eggs are incubated annually, and hatchlings are released back to their mothers’ wetlands.
The hospital acts as a teaching and referral hospital for other veterinarians, veterinary students, veterinary technician students, and other wildlife rehabilitation centres. We conduct specialized workshops covering all aspects of turtle trauma, taking place at the OTCC and across the province. Because of this, countless rehabilitation centres, private veterinary clinics, shelters, and veterinary emergency clinics have started treating turtles or have advanced their skills.
The OTCC’s general education program targets all audiences and tailors presentations to each group, whether they be kindergarten children, University students, veterinary students or a cottagers’ group. OTCC’s education program fosters awareness and direct conservation action to protect at-risk turtle populations and their wetland habitats. To date, 100% of participants in our programs have indicated that they were inspired to take conservation action.
OTCC’s field work program adds to the bigger picture of conservation and fills knowledge gaps that will aid turtle conservation programs all over the world. Since 2012 we have been conducting a long-term post-release study on head-started juvenile Blanding’s turtles. We radio track these turtles weekly alongside a group of wild juvenile Blanding’s turtles to determine the effectiveness of head-starting as a conservation tool for freshwater turtles. So far, results show these turtles add to the subadult population, and the juveniles are comparable to the wild-hatched turtles in movement, behaviour, and survival. We also conduct population surveys of other turtle species found in the area and not previously studied.
Data Compilation and Publications
Data collected from the hospital, hatchling, and field programs are analyzed, and published in peer reviewed journals. OTCC has authored papers on Ranavirus epidemiology in Ontario’s wild turtles, sex ratios of turtles injured on roads, aural abscesses in Ontario’s painted turtles, as well as the results of their post-release studies.
Our dedicated group of volunteers help to increase the OTCC’s scope. Animal husbandry volunteers help care for turtles year-round, education volunteers assist with presentations, and turtle taxi volunteers allow us to admit turtles from all across the province. Volunteer veterinarians aid in First Response at 40 locations throughout Ontario.