By Lindsey Cooke
PETERBOROUGH- “Each year we take in about 400 turtles. This year we’re already over 500 and still have a few months of the turtle season left to go” said Donnell Gasbarrini, the Turtle Programs Manager for the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre in Peterborough.
According to Gasbarrini about 70-75 percent of the injured turtles being brought into the centre are a result of getting hit by cars on the road. The turtle season is from May to the end of August and she said they have already reached over their capacity. “We have already seen more injured turtles come in so far, more then the entire season of last year.”
Even though they are already over their limit, Gasbarrini said it is a delicate situation. “If we don’t take them we can’t refer them somewhere else, because they are so different than other mammals and birds that any other wildlife centre sees” she explained.
The Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre is the only trauma centre in Ontario for turtles so they receive these creatures from all over the province. They have first response teams that are trained to help turtles in various areas but nothing to help them long term, so they are eventually sent to the centre in Peterborough.
Gasbarrini explained how it is difficult for any other animal doctor to perform surgery on a turtle that is not a turtle specialist because they are a very special species. They are aquatic creatures so they are able to hold their breath for a long time. When they have to go for surgery they are put to sleep with gas. “They might have the mask on but they might not be breathing the gas” she said. She explained that, that is the challenging part with operating on turtles.
There are eight turtle species in Ontario and seven of them are labelled at risk because of the crisis. “Being a species at risk means species at risk of extinction” explained Gasbarrini.
She said that without these animals the wetlands will not be the same because they help to keep the wetlands areas clean. “First step is getting people to know about them so that we can create a connection so that hopefully they care” advised Gasbarrini. Another solution that is being introduced is installing culverts in the roads where the turtle hot spots are. Gasbarrrini told Kawartha 411 that these culverts are basically enclosed fencing to keep turtles off the road. They are created so that there is water within it and a top that allows sunlight in to encourage animals to go through it.
If anyone happens to see a turtle injured on the road it is important to call the Ontario Turtle Trauma Centre at 705-741-5000.
Hunt 4 Dreams Realty at 42A Bolton Street in Bobcaygeon is fundraising to help the Centre cover costs. They have a limited number of T-Shirts available for anyone making a substantial contribution but donations of any amount are accepted.