Kansas zoos working to save the state reptile

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Seven zoos in Kansas are working together to evaluate the ornate box turtle population across the state in eight counties. The ornate box turtle is the state reptile of Kansas.

According to the Rolling Hills Zoo in Salina, turtles are the most threatened group of vertebrates worldwide. Nearly 42% of turtle and tortoise species are threatened with extinction.

"There are anecdotal reports of a significant decline in ornate box turtle numbers across the state of Kansas," the zoo said in a news release. "To guide conservation management decisions, new baseline population data is needed as the last study reporting population numbers concluded in 1956 and was not considered a viable study as it was only conducted in one county."

The project will be supervised by trained staff from seven state zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. It will also include a citizen science component designed to engage members of the public in hands-on, meaningful conservation science while increasing awareness and understanding of ornate box turtles.

“Engaging citizens in species stewardship and conservation is a proven method of affecting behavior change and positively impacting wildlife,” said Rolling Hills Zoo’s Executive Director Bob Jenkins. 

The three-year project will be the first viable ornate box turtle population study ever conducted in Kansas. Data collected will be shared with the Kansas Department of Wildlife Parks and Tourism and will be used to help guide future conservation management decisions regarding ornate box turtles at both the state and national level.

Rolling Hills Zoo will be hosting World Turtle Day on Saturday, May 25th, where guest will be asked to help "SHELLabrate" by participating in turtle activities at 10 a.m. and a special Turtle Keeper Encounter at 11:30 a.m. 

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