The Nova Scotia Nature Trust has a time-limited opportunity to save some of the best remaining habitat for endangered Blanding’s turtles in Nova Scotia – and is asking the public for help. Conservationists hope to save a 66-acre lakeshore site in southwest Nova Scotia, but have just over a month to raise the funds needed make the province’s most significant rare turtle sanctuary a reality.
The Blanding’s turtle, one of the longest-lived and slowest maturing freshwater turtles in Canada is also a turtle in trouble. With a hatchling survival rate of less than 1% and expanding cottage development and roads in the areas where these turtles live, they are struggling to survive. Blanding’s turtles are listed on both the Canadian and Nova Scotian endangered species lists. Within Nova Scotia, they are only found in one small area – and there are likely only about 350 adult turtles remaining.
Now, the Nature Trust has the chance to save one of the best Blanding’s turtle sites in Nova Scotia – if critical funds can be raised. They have an opportunity to purchase a 66-acre lakeshore property, encompassing 15 islands and a forested peninsula that include over 5.5 kilometers of undeveloped lakeshore and critical nesting habitat for a large number of endangered turtles.
The Nature Trust has just succeeded in securing an agreement to purchase the property, but only has until December 31st to close the deal.
“Thanks to Environment Canada’s Habitat Stewardship Program and generous individual and corporate donors, we have already raised almost half of the funds necessary to protect this incredible area,” said Conservation Coordinator, Cristi Frittaion. “However, we still need to raise $120,000 by December 31st – and are putting out an urgent appeal to all who want to be a part of what we hope will be an amazing endangered species success story.”
The important nesting site is at risk because of its high potential for cottage development. It is used by generations of Blanding’s turtles, including Squirt, Lumpy, Smoothy, Lucy, Dilly, Anya, Muldora, Kelly, and Pat – all females who have laid their eggs on this site. The turtles were named by staff and volunteers of the Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute (MTRI), one of the Nature Trust’s partners in conservation. MTRI is helping the Blanding’s turtle to recover by coordinating a turtle nest protection program and leading Blanding’s turtle research efforts in the region.
Acadia University researchers under the supervision of Dr. Tom Herman and Dr. Steve Mockford have been leading the way in Blanding’s turtle research and recovery efforts since 1989. “This is a fantastic opportunity,” said Dr. Herman. “The McGowan Lake property is truly one of the most important nesting sites for Blanding’s turtles in Nova Scotia.” He added, “Protecting these wetlands, shorelines, and islands as Nature Trust conservation lands means protecting the imperilled Blanding’s, their sensitive nests, and their vulnerable hatchlings now and forever.
Ms. Frittaion urged Nova Scotians to step forward to help save this important part of our natural legacy through a charitable donation. “With so few Blanding’s turtles left in Nova Scotia, the fate of the turtles is truly in our hands. This breeding site is absolutely critical to the survival not just of Squirt and her friends, but to the survival of this entire species in Nova Scotia.”
She noted that people can also support the campaign and give a meaningful and memorable holiday gift at the same time, by “adopting” a turtle at www.nsnt.ca.
The protection of these lands also ensures that this unique wild space will be preserved for future generations to enjoy their own experiences in nature. To date the Nature Trust has protected over 6500 acres of outstanding natural areas, encompassing 51 conservation areas protecting coastal wilderness, critical freshwater habitats, old-growth forests, and habitat for species at risk, as well as wilderness recreation, and unique education and research opportunities.
The Nature Trust is helping the Blanding’s turtle to recover by working with researchers and partners to identify the most critical lands for turtle conservation and recovery, engaging landowners to permanently protect their lands, and engaging local communities to take an active part in habitat stewardship.
For information and to donate to the McGowan Lake Blanding’s turtle sanctuary call (902) 425-LAND, or visit www.nsnt.ca.