Ontario turtles close to extinction, conservation group worries
June 8 2016
Poaching has become a significant problem for many Ontario turtle species inching their way to possible extinction, conservation groups fear.
Three of the province’s eight native turtle species are on the endangered list with the spiny softshell recently being given the designation.
Poaching only adds to the threats turtles already contend with, including destruction of their natural nesting grounds, explained Erin Mallon, conservation biologist from Ontario Nature, a charitable organization that protects wild species and their habitats.
“Those top three endangered species have problems with poaching,” she said. “It’s dramatically contributing to their status.”
The province’s endangered list also includes the spotted turtle and the wood turtle. The snapping turtle is considered at-risk. The painted turtle is the only species out of eight that are native to the province that are not considered at-risk.
“We’ve got three turtles on the brink of extinction because they’re endangered species and the other turtles … they’re not that far behind,” Mallon said.
Enforcement officers with the province’s Ministry of Natural Resources issue warnings and charges every year through poaching investigations.
Quite often those investigations start with tips from the community or with online ads selling turtles.
One spiny softshell turtle was found in a grocery store in London last year. The owner in that case was fined $1,000 after pleading guilty, according to conservation officers with Aylmer Enforcement Unit.
As more turtles end up on the endangered species list, some conservation groups worry the demand and cost for them could increase. That’s a particular concern for Scott Gillingwater, species at risk biologist with the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority.
“There are people that have very strongly-held traditional interest in turtles,” he told CBC News earlier this week. “There are some pretty serious issues with organized crime that try to make money off these animals to get [them] to people that do have those traditional values.”
A previous version of this story stated the snapping turtle is the only species not at-risk. In fact, the painted turtle is the only species considered not at-risk.
Jun 09, 2016 7:46 AM ET