Our first western painted turtles hatched in the specially designed incubators here at the Greater Vancouver Zoo on July 24th and we now have a whopping 80 little hatchlings kickin’ it in the barn as part of the Fraser Valley Wetlands Wildlife program to save this declining species. My favourite part of the day is coming into work and checking the incubators to discover that a couple more babies have successfully fought their way out of their shell. I love collecting the struggling littles and spending some time weighing, measuring, and photographing them before letting them join the rest of the newborns.
Baby turtles require different care than adult turtles. They don’t need food for a week after they’ve hatched because they are still absorbing their yolk through the centre of their plastron. We apply germicide to this “belly-button” every day to avoid infections. The belly-buttons will disappear eventually, along with their eggtooth, a white extension of the turtle beak that hatchlings use to pierce their shell.
Before anybody had hatched, Wildlife Preservation Canada’s Lead Biologist Andrea Gielens charged me with the important task of coming up with 200 names for this years’ turtles. I drew inspiration from my favourite tv shows, books and real-life people. Turtle Hermione hatched yesterday, turtle Tegan is growing and turtle Beyonce has launched her music career.
In other baby news, in mid-July we had around 250 Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly larvae hatch as part of the recovery program for that endangered species. They started out cute but soon developed ferocious appetites that transformed them into poop machines. We now have to vigilantly change their containers and paper towel sometimes twice a day, which can take quite a while when each caterpillar has to be transferred to the new container using a paintbrush and a spoon.
Reprieve is in sight, however; the caterpillars are starting to enter diapause, a state of dormancy during which they web up together and eat nothing until spring. Our careful, intensive summer work has helped butterflies pupate, eclose, mate, lay eggs, hatch and enter diapause. Talk about the circle of life!
Project Assistant, Fraser Valley Wetlands Wildlife
LoyaltyOne Young Conservation Leader