Pump Some Gas, Save A Turtle.

Photo from Kawartha Turtle Trauma Centre.

Photo from Kawartha Turtle Trauma Centre.

In 2001, a group of kids got together and started 'Kids for Turtles' in Peterborough, Ontario. The group lobbied for road signs around places where turtles were walking across streets. One of their parents happened to be a veterinarian and took the initiative one step further. She started treating injured turtles in the area. It grew.

Today, Ontario is lucky to have the Kawartha Turtle Trauma Centre. It has become the hub for a network of clinics, shelters, and rehab centres across the province that help turtles. As outreach grew, admissions of around 80 grew to over 600. However, the centre likes to help turtles with more then just medical aid. It engages in many research projects and educational outreach throughout the province.

Turtles are quite unique. They live for over 50 years (that is a long time), yet only 1% of their eggs survive. When you factor in that it takes a turtle 20 years to reach maturity, the survival rate of the species is something to worry about. That is why the Kawartha Turtle Centre has started a program called headstarting. Dr. Sue Carstairs, the centre's Medical and Executive Director explains that a lot of female lay eggs within the hospital, and keeping those eggs through the winter (or longer for endangered species) gives the turtles a fighting chance.

The initiative is very promising. Dr. Carstairs notes that not a lot of research has been done on headstarting, but she believes it is worthwhile and promising. In order to track their results, the centre is conducting a study with radio transmitters to see if headstarting will add to the population.

The centre also excels in outreach. Telling the story of turtles is engaging and there is much demand for it from kindergarten to universities, motorists, boaters, cottage goers and senior groups.

After speaking with Dr. Carstairs, it became clear that the centre continues to grow and its impact on Ontario is significant. Our talk highlighted how far the centre's volunteers go to help turtles and how much good work is being done by their local community. One story that sticks is how volunteers often drive great distances to pick up injured turtles that have been phoned in. As demand grows, the centre could not function without its many volunteers.

The next step for the centre is to expand its facilities to accommodate all the great work that they are doing, but they need help from all of us. They have entered the Shell Fuelling Change competition. Each year, Shell donates 2 million dollars for environmental causes, and the centre is hoping to win one of this years prizes. A winner is determined by how many votes they receive. In order to vote, all you have to do is register and then every time you get a shell receipt, enter the number online for 50 votes. If they win, they can take the next step in helping turtles in Ontario.

Tom Wiercioch