Ornate Box Turtle Press Materials

Lincoln Park Zoo Gives Ornate Box Turtles Head Start

Eleven ornate box turtles re-introduced to Illinois prairie with U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Chicago (June 11, 2015) - Listed as a threatened species, ornate box turtle populations have diminished in the prairies of Illinois. In an effort to restore the wild population, Lincoln Park Zoo and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) re-introduced 11 turtles to their native habitat on Wednesday.

In order to help the population thrive, ornate box turtle eggs are collected from the prairies and transferred to the zoo. There, the eggs are incubated, hatched and reared without the threat of predation from coyotes, snakes and raccoons. Due to the comfortable climate of the incubator and care from keepers, the turtles are able to forgo hibernation, enabling them to grow quickly – to roughly the size of a four or five-year-old turtle – and gain strength before returning to the wild. At a little under one-year-old the juvenile turtles return to the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge where they receive unique markings and radio transmitters for research and tracking purposes.

“Tracking the turtles is an essential part of this population restoration effort,” said Diane Mulkerin, Lincoln Park Zoo curator. “The GPS signal enables researchers to find not only the turtles, but their nests, so nests can be protected and eggs can be collected for head starting.”

The turtles were re-introduced to their native habitat in Thomson Sand Prairie in Thomson, Ill. and Lost Mound in Savanna, Ill. Both prairies are part of the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge that stretches over 261 river miles. The 11 turtles re-introduced contribute to the USFWS goal of populating the area with 100 turtles by 2020 which includes both natural and re-introduced populations.

In addition to ornate box turtles, Lincoln Park Zoo participates in re-introduction programs for meadow-jumping mice and smooth green snakes in Illinois as well as red wolves, trumpeter swans, Guam rails and other threatened and endangered species across the U.S.

For more information on Lincoln Park Zoo’s conservation efforts, visit www.lpzoo.org/conservation-science




Media Contacts

Sharon Dewar
(312) 742-2246



Jillian Braun
(312) 742-5791


Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo, a historic landmark founded in 1868, is dedicated to connecting people with nature by providing a free, family-oriented wildlife experience. A leader in conservation science both globally and locally, the zoo exemplifies the highest quality animal care and educational outreach. The not-for-profit zoo, managed by The Lincoln Park Zoological Society, is a member-supported organization and one of the nation’s only free, privately managed zoos. For more information, call 312 -742-2000 or visit www.lpzoo.org.





Ornate Box Turtle Video  (74MB .mp4)