Philadelphia Zoo Campers Releasing Endangered Diamondback Terrapins into the Wild

Campers will release the tiny turtles into the wetlands of southern New Jersey as part of the Zoo's terrapin conservation project
August 15, 2008 12:12:27 PM PDT
Eleven to thirteen-year-old campers have been caring for dozens of diamondback terrapins at the Zoo for weeks. They have monitored and fed the tiny turtles hatched from rescued eggs that were taken from their mothers who were struck by vehicles at the Jersey shore. The release this year will mark the twelfth successful year the Philadelphia Zoo has partnered with the Wetlands Institute (Stone Harbor, NJ) in the diamondback terrapin conservation program. Terrapin eggs are harvested from dead females, artificially incubated and then "head-started" for release. The Philadelphia Zoo serves as one of three locations for the Head-Start program, along with Richard Stockton College and the Wetlands Institute.

The Zoo "head-starts" roughly 100 terrapin hatchlings each year. Under the supervision of Zoo staff, students care for the hatchlings for 10 to 12 months and then help to release them in the wetlands of the Jersey shore.

Thanks to the efforts of the three participating institutions, about 300 "head-started" young terrapins are released into the wild each year, helping to offset the death of females killed by motor vehicles.

The Philadelphia Zoo's participation in this project earned it the 2001 American Zoo and Aquarium Association's Regional Conservation Award.

* Please note ? if you are interested in filming the terrapins being cared for at the Zoo, arrangements can be made before they are released on Thursday.