MP Keddy releases rare Blanding's turtles into the wild



    ANNAPOLIS COUNTY, NS, July 3 /CNW/ - Mr. Gerald Keddy, Member of
Parliament for South Shore-St. Margaret's and Parliamentary Secretary to the
Minister of International Trade and Minister of the Atlantic Canada
Opportunities Agency, participated today in a ceremony to release 34
Blanding's turtles into the wild.
    "By taking action today, the Government of Canada is ensuring that
species at risk, like the Blanding's Turtle, are protected for future
generations," said Mr. Keddy. "I applaud the hard work of our partners and
volunteers, whose tireless efforts have resulted in the largest Blanding's
turtle release in Nova Scotia's history."
    Last year, working with a Parks Canada Species at Risk team and partner
organizations, more than 250 volunteers dedicated over 10,000 hours towards
species at risk recovery in Kejimkujik National Park and the Southwest Nova
Biosphere Reserve.
    In order to protect the Blanding's Turtle, volunteers helped discover and
monitor nesting sites; at times the work required all night vigils. The
turtles released today have been protected and hatched at the Oaklawn Farm
Zoo. The two-year old "headstarted" turtles are now less vulnerable to
predators, and have a greater chance of survival than turtles naturally
hatched in the wild.
    A sweetgrass ceremony provided by Bear River First Nation started the
day's event. Privileged partners, like L'sitkuk - Bear River First Nation, are
an integral part of the Blanding's turtle recovery effort as they provide a
spiritual connection to the turtles as well as assistance with the assessment
of turtle survival. Friends of Keji, Oaklawn Farm Zoo, Acadia University,
Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute, Bird Studies Canada and many other
individuals, corporate and government agencies have also been extensively
involved in this initiative.
    As part of the lead up to today's event, some of the volunteers and local
schools were given the honour of naming the 34 young turtles. The names were
announced as part of the ceremony.
    Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site of Canada is part of
a national system of parks, historic sites and marine conservation areas that
is recognized as one of the finest and most extensive systems of protected
areas in the world.


    
                                 BACKGROUNDER
    

    Thirty-Four Rare Turtles Released into the Wild at Kejimkujik National
    Park and National Historic Site of Canada

    Thirty-four young Blanding's turtles, a species at risk, have been
released into the wild this year after a "Turtle Send-Off" celebration in
Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site of Canada. The turtles
were raised at Acadia University and the Oaklawn Farm Zoo as part of the
species at risk recovery project, and after two years they are ready to be
released. Before they were let go, the turtles were each named by the many
partners and volunteers. This is an extraordinary number of turtles
considering that Nova Scotia has only about 350 Blanding's turtles.
    Blanding's turtles are medium-sized freshwater turtles. Adults have
dark-green, high-domed shells with yellow flecks. Their undersides are yellow
with black patches. They have black scaly skin and are easily identified by
their distinctive yellow throats.
    Kejimkujik and its surrounding greater region are home to many species at
risk of extinction, such as the Blanding's turtle, which is protected under
the federal Species at Risk Act and the Nova Scotia Species at Risk Act. Other
species at risk in Kejimkujik include the Eastern ribbonsnake, the
Water-pennywort, the Monarch butterfly, the Piping Plover, the Common
Nighthawk, the Rusty Blackbird, the Olive-sided Flycatcher, and the Chimney
Swift.
    Under the Species at Risk Act (SARA), Parks Canada is responsible for the
protection and recovery of listed species found in national parks and other
protected heritage areas administered by Parks Canada.
    In order to protect Blanding's turtles, Kejimkujik National Park and
National Historic Site has spearheaded recovery actions, research, public
education and partnerships.
    The protection provided by Kejimkujik is a key factor in preserving Nova
Scotia's Blanding's turtle population. All Blanding's turtle habitat in the
park receives the highest level of protection. In these areas of special
protection, no development or recreational activities may occur.
    The Blanding's turtle recovery team is made up of Parks Canada staff,
members from Universities, Federal and Provincial government, First Nations,
industry, non-governmental organizations and volunteers.
    Volunteers and partners play a critical role in the recovery of the
Blanding's turtle and other species at risk recovery in Kejimkujik. More than
250 volunteers invested a total of over 10,000 volunteer hours at Kejimkujik
last year.




For further information:

For further information: Stephen Flemming, Species at Risk Scientist,
Kejimkujik National Park of Canada, (902) 682-2185; (Also available on the
Internet at www.pc.gc.ca under Media room.)


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