Help Save the Turtles

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This spring, Stockton University's Vivarium has welcomed more than 1100 Diamondback terrapin hatchlings. 

 "Eggs laid later in the year hatch out underground and spend the winter in the nest chamber surviving off their yolk sac," said John Rokita, assistant supervisor of Academic Lab Services, when explaining spring emergers. When the warmth of spring awakens the tiny terrapins, their perilous journey begins. After surviving a treacherous traffic crossing, a baby terrapin can meet yet another obstacle--the curb.  They are also small enough to slip through the cracks of storm drains. 

Rescued baby terrapins are enrolled in a head start program at the Stockton Vivarium where they will receive expert care from Rokita and his staff. 

Although the water in storm drains will eventually flow into the bay, the unfiltered rainwater and runoff from roads and impervious surfaces is not a safe or healthy habitat. "A good percentage of the terrapins that do come from storm drains have eye infections", explained Rokita.

In the coming weeks, more terrapins will be arriving from a conservation partnership with The Wetlands Institute in Stone Harbor that extracts and incubates eggs from road-killed females. Hatchlings spend about a year at Stockton under optimum growing conditions to give them a head start prior to being released back into the wild. A head-started terrapin is 2-3 times larger than a wild terrapin of the same age. 

Take a photo tour of the Vivarium to learn how the terrapins grow strong at Stockton.  To date, there are 1,108 terrapins receiving care at Stockton.  "That's a lot of mouths to feed daily!" said Rokita. 

 

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