Worcester, MA – November 2, 2023 – The EcoTarium Museum, dedicated to inspiring a passion for science and nature, is excited to announce a new initiative that strengthens its ongoing commitment to wildlife conservation. The EcoTarium welcomed Northern Red-bellied Cooter hatchlings, marking the beginning of a nine-month journey to nurture these endangered turtles before they are released by the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife).

Noreen Johnson Smith, President and CEO of the EcoTarium, stated, “The EcoTarium’s dedication to wildlife conservation dates back to the founding of this organization in 1825. Our ‘head-starting’ initiative exemplifies our commitment to preserving biodiversity and nurturing the next generation of turtles. We’re proud to support such impactful efforts.”

Turtles, with a remarkable evolutionary history spanning over 200 million years, hold a crucial place in our planet’s biodiversity. In line with its mission to protect these remarkable creatures, the EcoTarium has launched a “head-starting” initiative, focusing on raising turtle hatchlings to ensure they have a better chance of surviving into adulthood. Giving turtle hatchlings a head start on life is an essential step for the EcoTarium to collaborate closely with MassWildlife. Together, they aim to ensure these remarkable creatures’ long-term survival and preserve their unique genetic heritage.

“The head-starting program for Red-bellied Cooters is an incredible success story for biodiversity conservation, with MassWildlife releasing more than 4,800 hatchlings in southern Massachusetts over the past 40 years. We are pleased that the EcoTarium is joining our team of committed partners who help raise these endangered turtles and give them a head start at life,” said the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game Commissioner, Tom O’Shea.

In 1984, the Northern Red-bellied Cooter Headstart Program began as a collaborative effort by MassWildlife’s Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program (NHESP) to bolster the population of Northern Red-bellied Cooter, a turtle species facing dual endangerment on federal and state levels. This program is a crucial component of MassWildlife’s approach to turtle conservation. It offers insights into how residents, educators, and conservationists can play a role in safeguarding these remarkable creatures in their local environments.

The EcoTarium invites the public, conservationists, and nature enthusiasts to join them in creating awareness about turtle conservation. You can follow the EcoTarium’s social media platforms on Instagram or Facebook for updates on the progress of the Red-bellied Cooter hatchlings and the EcoTarium’s ongoing efforts to protect and nurture these incredible animals. To support the EcoTarium’s turtle head start program and other conservation efforts with a gift, please visit our donation page.