An enthusiastic team of volunteers got together at our rescue center in New Jersey last weekend to help us search for, count, and medically assess turtles rescued from the illegal pet trade before they enter hibernation with the onset of the cold season. The work ahead of this inventory exercise seemed monumental in the face of unseasonable 90° weather.
The majority of the animals living at the center come from confiscations from smugglers trying to export native U.S. species of turtles, including Wood Turtles (Glyptemys insculpta), Box Turtles (Terrapene spp.) and Spotted Turtles (Clemmys guttata). The center is also home to animals confiscated from illegal pet ownership. Maurice Rodrigues, one of the founders of the Turtle Conservancy and an active conservationist, runs the center which provides a caring home for all these confiscated animals.
The center is home to the turtles year-round. There are wild blackberries and strawberries, fruit trees, dandelion, fish, and worms for the turtles to forage on. In recent years, the rescue center has become home to native flora and fauna, including American Toads, Leopard Frogs, Checkered Garter Snakes, bats, and owls.
Resembling a turtle Easter egg hunt, volunteers excitedly searched for animals, digging through leaves, mud, and wading through ponds. Several hatchlings were discovered in the pens still with their egg-tooth, evidence they hatched in the days prior. Maurice and Dr. James Liu (Turtle Conservancy Associate Director and Veterinarian) led the health assessments of the animals. Several volunteers assisted in weighing, photographing, and checking the animals for signs of possible illness or injury.
It was not all hard labor though. The team gathered for a picnic under a shady tree, enjoying ice cold drinks and a delicious meal, with many laughs and insights into the world of turtle and tortoise lovers.
If you live in Southern California or the greater NYC area and are interested in volunteering, please send us your CV and a cover letter to email@example.com