Conservation Collaboration: Starring the Bog Turtle
Millbrook School is committed to doing what we can to protect endangered species and help grow their populations, and the bog turtle is a cause that is close to home.
While the Trevor Zoo is a member of the Species Survival Program and cares for seven endangered species within the zoo exhibits, the staff also works closely with other organizations in the Hudson Valley who are focused on bringing back other indigenous local species that are nearing extinction. On Monday, August 5, Millbrook School and the Trevor Zoo hosted what we hope will become an annual gathering of representatives from a wide variety of groups dedicated to preserving the endangered bog turtle.
The bog turtle is the smallest turtle of the 17 turtle species in the state of New York; the turtle has been threatened by a loss of habitat and illegal collecting. Members from the following groups met at the Trevor Zoo Education Building to discuss a host of issues related to the preservation and tracking of the bog turtle: the USDA, the NRCS (National Resources Conservation Service), US Fish and Wildlife, the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation, Hudsonia (a local environmental consulting firm), and The Nature Conservancy. Also in attendance were private environmental consultants, including Jason Tesauro, a Rhinebeck resident that is a local hands-on coordinator of bog turtle surveys, and a PhD candidate graduate student at Fordham, who presented about her research and her dissertation on bog turtle nesting.
The group spent the morning providing updates on survey and study activities through summary presentations and coordinating and planning for next year. The Trevor Zoo hosted a barbeque lunch, during which local landowners and population survey volunteers joined the group to get updates from the professionals with whom they work. Many local landowners volunteer to participate in government programs to help protect the habitats of the bog turtles.
Zoo Director Dr. Alan Tousignant is a volunteer surveyor, and the Trevor Zoo is committed to collaborating with both landowners and state and other conservation agencies. Dr. T. remarks, “It's a nice opportunity to be involved in a conservation project with a local species. Our role has been and will continue to be to provide information to the public about the bog turtle and to volunteer our assistance out in the field.”
Historical bog turtle sites are present on Millbrook School property, and Dr. T. hopes to be able to rejuvenate or reintroduce the species here. The last bog turtle was found on campus in the 1990s.
The afternoon included tours of the zoo, which provided the group with a broader sense of the zoos mission and the breadth of our animal population. Headmaster Drew Casertano spoke briefly to the group about community service at Millbrook School and the involvement of so many students in caring for the more than 180 animals, the responsibility learned there, and the zoo as a unique educational facility for students in the sciences and across the curriculum. Additionally, 45 volunteers care for animals every summer and learn about our conservation programs.