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22 endangered turtles released at DuPage County preserves

May 2, 2021 GMT

BROOKFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Nearly two dozen young endangered turtles have been released into the wild at a suburban Chicago nature preserve.

Twenty-two Blanding’s turtles were released Wednesday at the Forest Preserves of DuPage County as part of a decades-long effort to rebuild populations of the semi-aquatic turtles in Illinois.

Dan Thompson, a wildlife ecologist at the forest preserves, said 10 of the young turtles barely larger than an average person’s thumb were bred and raised in captivity at the Brookfield Zoo.

Blanding’s turtles were once common throughout the Midwest, but they are now endangered in Illinois. Although they’re tiny when they’re young, the turtles grow to about the size of a human palm when they’re adults.

Staff at the Forest Preserves of DuPage County have been working for a quarter-century to rebuild the local Blanding’s turtle population and their efforts are paying off. He said their numbers have grown and the population includes turtles with a larger range in ages.

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“We can push species to the brink of extinction or they just can’t even persist here anymore. But to recover them - that doesn’t happen overnight. That just takes an awful lot of work,” Thompson told WLS-TV.

The Brookfield Zoo has been raising Blanding’s turtles for that effort for about a decade. The zoo is located in the Chicago suburb of Brookfield.