Lincoln Park Zoo's animal population grew by 18 this week when a clutch of ornate box turtles hatched.
The quarter-sized turtles will receive special medical care from the zoo before they're released at Lost Mound Sand Prairie in Savanna, Ill., as part of a partnership between the zoo and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, according to a release.
“Our job at Lincoln Park Zoo is to give these little guys the best possible head start. In a sense, we are a turtle nursery,” General Curator Dave Bernier said in a statement. The turtles hatched from eggs collected in the wild and incubated at the zoo. For the next year they'll live in a warm, balmy environment surrounded by moss, and feed on specially-formulated turtle chow.
“Our team is going to see to it that these turtles are strong, mature and ready to thrive in the wild when they leave the zoo next year,” Bernier said in a statement.
The box turtle population in Savanna, Ill. has severely decreased as a result of habitat loss caused by years of military activity in the area, according to the zoo. Lost Mound now offers a state- and federally-protected stretch of sand prairie, the turtles' optimal environment, where the project hopes to eventually establish 100 healthy turtles.
Check out the turtles and other new cuties at Chicago-area zoos: