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Turtle Power

Feb 12 2016

By Chloe Speakman, Wilderness Committee Campaign Assistant

Andrea Gielens grew up in Aldergrove, BC, next door to a prime habitat area for Oregon spotted frogs. She’s always been interested in animals – from hatching frogs in buckets in her backyard to saving birds and shrews from the neighbourhood cats.

“Like most kids, I thought I was going to be a vet or a marine biologist,” Andrea recalls. “It wasn’t until my last semester of university that I got to be involved in direct conservation work with a local conservation centre.”

There, she saw how many different ways conservation directly impacts multiple wildlife species.

Imagine sitting on the shore of a turtle nesting beach, watching a female turtle lay eggs, while a great blue heron flies overhead. Beavers are splashing and otters are playing in view, to the sound of drumming at a First Nations gathering less than a kilometre away.

Sounds pretty epic, right?

Andrea’s field work isn’t always that spectacular, but you’re surely in for a treat if you join her on a day in the field to see painted turtles.

A $1000 contribution to our Toad People crowdfunding campaign will send you on a one-on-one expedition into local turtle habitat in southwestern BC – so you can catch a glimpse of these charming little creatures in the wild.

Coastal painted turtles are the only remaining native freshwater turtles in BC. Populations of the species have plummeted over the last few decades due to several factors including loss of habitat, pollution, poaching and introduction of exotic species. As a result, the coastal western painted turtle is now federally endangered and provincially red-listed. To prevent further declines, the Coastal Painted Turtle Project was formed.

Andrea’s current work with the Coastal Painted Turtle Project is very broad in scope. CPTP does habitat assessment, restoration, nest monitoring, outreach, and more. Field work often involves getting in a kayak and checking traps for turtles, then taking various measurements of any turtles present.

Andrea spends many evenings during summer nesting season at nesting sites, watching females come onto shore.

“It’s amazing to watch the female turtles select their site, dig the hole, lay eggs and cover them, then do their ‘happy dance’ before heading back to the water,” she says.

Sounds like fun to us!

If you contribute to the Toad People crowdfunding campaign and claim this exciting perk, you’ll also be contributing to the conservation efforts of the Coastal Painted Turtle Project.

Click here to claim the private turtle field trip when you contribute to Toad People on Indiegogo.

Photo: Baby western painted turtle (Coastal Painted Turtle Project)

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