Saving endangered animals is not easy. It requires dedication, a willingness to work long hours, a stubborn commitment to keep moving forward, and above all a love for the animals we work with.
But the rewards can also be immensely gratifying when we see these animals being released back into the wild and even more so when we see signs of their wild populations recovering.
Which is why WPC is so pleased to be able to report that 2021 has been the most successful year ever across all of our programs.
Let’s take a look back and celebrate some of the year’s many highlights together!
1. 20,000 more frogs for the Fraser Valley
WPC’s headstarting and release program for Oregon spotted frogs had an unprecedented level of success this year, a major leap forward for the recovery of this species. Keen observations of frog behaviour by WPC lead biologist, Andrea Gielens, and the courage to trial new techniques resulted in our releasing more than 20,000 Oregon spotted frogs and froglets to the Fraser Valley. The previous highest number was 1800! We also observed increased wild breeding this year, further evidence our work is making a difference.
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2. Reintroduced turtles are breeding in the wild again
Another milestone for the Fraser River Valley recovery program was the first confirmed records of nesting in the wild by five western painted turtle females that had come from the WPC headstarting program. Since it takes 6-10 years for a female painted turtle to reach maturity this project does require a slow and steady approach for recovery. This year we released 123 young turtles to the wild. These youngsters will hopefully one day join those five pioneering nesting turtles in helping their species recover in BC.
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3. First collaborative species planning workshop in Canada, led by WPC
The Canadian Species Initiative held its first workshop to forge new multi-partner recovery efforts to align efforts to save endangered species in Canada. We brought together 69 experts from across the country representing conservation practitioners, universities, zoos and aquariums, governments, parks, and First Nations to assess the conservation needs for all 39 groups of Canadian snakes, the first time anything like this his has ever been done in Canada.
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4. Loggerhead shrikes are breeding better in the wild
Intensive field surveys by WPC found 24 wild pairs of eastern loggerhead shrikes nesting in Canada and these pairs fledged 78 young shrikes, the highest wild production ever recorded. Captive-bred and released birds made up at least 13% of the wild population. Pairs with one parent coming from our conservation breeding program contributed 22% of observed fledglings. This unique songbird would be gone from Canada if not for the shrike recovery program.
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5. Breakthrough breeding for the Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly
Close observation of butterflies by dedicated staff led to a breakthrough in identifying ideal conditions for breeding Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies. This led to the production of a record 5,265 caterpillars at the conservation breeding facilities. Earlier in the year we released 1,257 caterpillars. Subsequent sightings of butterflies indicated that these released caterpillars were able to survive through pupation to become adults to once again be seen flying in restored habitat on Hornby Island.
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6. First ever butterfly reintroduction in Ontario
WPC played a key role in the 1st ever reintroduction of a butterfly in Ontario by monitoring mottled duskywing butterflies after their release in Pinery Provincial Park. The reintroduction is a partnership between the University of Guelph, Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory, Natural Resources Solutions Inc., Ontario Parks, and WPC. Nearly 700 mottled duskywings in various life stages were released this season. So far, all signs have positively pointed toward the released duskywings reproducing and behaving normally in the wild.
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7. Innovative bumble bee trailer is a conservation success
WPC created a new, innovative bumble bee conservation breeding lab leading to phenomenal breeding success. We worked with three different bumble bee species and two of the three species produced 49 colonies. Particularly noteworthy was the production of workers, males, and gynes (breeding females) for the first time for the brown-belted bumble bee. WPC is the only organization in the world that is intensively developing conservation breeding as a recovery method for threatened bumble bees.
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8. Sharing knowledge for freshwater turtle conservation
WPC led the formation of a Working Group for the Conservation of Ontario Turtles, a network of experts that have come together to guide best practices for freshwater turtle conservation. The 1st priority for this group has been writing a Beneficial Management Practices for Turtle Nest Protection and Artificial Incubation, which will be available for all conservation organizations working with turtles.
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This project was undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through the federal Department of Environment and Climate Change.
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