Western painted turtle released to the wild. Photo: Josh Banta

We are fortunate to work in the unceded traditional territories for multiple First Nations. This week we were able to come together with the Skowkale, Aitchelitz and Yakweakwioose First Nations to release some turtles in the Browne Creek wetlands.

Turtles hold significant cultural importance across many indigenous cultures worldwide. They are revered as symbols of wisdom, longevity, and harmony with the environment. For First Nations peoples, the turtle represents the interconnectedness of all life and serves as a reminder of the responsibility humans have to protect and honor the Earth.

Freshwater turtle release programs offer a lifeline for these imperiled creatures. Through our meticulous conservation efforts, eggs are collected from vulnerable nests and incubated in controlled environments. This ensures the survival of hatchlings that would otherwise face insurmountable odds in the wild. As the day of release approaches, anticipation fills the air, tinged with a sense of urgency and determination.

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For this release we were able to release 18 turtles into the landscape with the assistance of multiple generations of the local First Nations. These turtles have been raised in our facility for a year and a half and have been acclimated over the past few weeks to the external temperatures and daylight cycles. On the banks of rivers and streams, volunteers carefully place the hatchlings onto the soft, damp soil. With a gentle nudge, the small turtles scurry into the water, on a journey fraught with challenges yet brimming with possibilities. As they paddle their way into the water, a ripple of hope emanates from their wake, with only the occasional look behind them to see if we are joining them, or perhaps coming back with snacks.

For those of us involved in freshwater turtle release programs, the work extends far beyond a single moment of release. It is a commitment to safeguarding the future of these remarkable creatures and the ecosystems they call home. Through habitat restoration, public education, and ex-situ rearing, we strive to address the root causes of decline and create a more hospitable environment for turtles.

Turtle Release is a call to action. It’s a reminder that our relationship with the Earth is not one of dominion, but of stewardship. It challenges us to confront the environmental challenges we face and to forge a path towards sustainability and harmony.

Below, volunteers preparing to release turtle hatchlings reared in our facility. Photo: Josh Banta

Andrea Gielens

Lead Biologist – Fraser Valley Wetlands Wildlife

Andrea manages WPC’s captive breeding and release programs for the Oregon spotted frog and the coastal western painted turtle. Andrea has studied at-risk reptiles and amphibians in Canada and abroad, including a term at the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust in Jersey. Andrea also manages the Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly recovery program in BC.

Andrea Gielens

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