Nashville Zoo’s herpetology team is in the second year of a conservation project that monitors and tracks Eastern box turtles right here on Zoo grounds.
Why are Eastern box turtle populations declining?
Eastern box turtles (Terrapene carolina) are found in grasslands, marshes, woodlands and forest edges often near streams and ponds throughout North America. These turtles are typically common and widespread but have recently been experiencing population decline due to habitat destruction, disease and predators in nesting areas. Eastern box turtles at Nashville Zoo are a unique population because they are isolated from other populations which means they are at risk for extirpation, local extinction.
Nashville Zoo’s herpetology team has jumped into action to help this vulnerable species and is officially in the second year of a long-term Eastern box turtle conservation project. The project focuses on the spotting, marking and tracking of Eastern box turtles on Zoo property in hopes of better understanding this species population and why they are decreasing in number.
These turtles are most active from March through October. If one is spotted by a guest or employee at the Zoo, a staff member from the herpetology team will come to record the spotting, take measurements and uniquely mark it. Some of the turtles are also fitted with a tracker and can be located using radio telemetry, a tool that is used to study animal movement and behavior. The data gathered from this long-term effort will help the Zoo team better understand this at-risk species and keep the Nashville Zoo population healthy.
I spotted a box turtle! What do I do?
You might spot an Eastern box turtle during your Zoo visit! If you do, find the nearest Nashville Zoo employee and they will be able to notify our herpetology team to find the turtle and record the data.