Jekyll Island, Georgia
Ogden, one of the Georgia Sea Turtle Center’s diamondback terrapin patients who was hit by a car in 2011, was found nesting this year! This is just one example of the amazing work that the Center does and that Zoo Atlanta is proud to support.
Why do they need you?
The diamondback terrapin is the only turtle that lives exclusively in brackish, coastal waters. Terrapins were once considered a delicacy, and large numbers were historically harvested as food along the eastern and Gulf coasts of the U.S. Thankfully, this practice has largely ceased, although there is still legal harvest in some places.
During the spring nesting season, many female terrapins are hit by vehicles as they try to reach their preferred nesting grounds in the dunes.
Another major threat to terrapins are “ghost” crab traps. These are traps that are placed but then abandoned. Terrapins often get caught in these and drown.
How is Zoo Atlanta helping?
Zoo Atlanta has partnered with the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island to rear young terrapins for release. Most of the young terrapins being reared at Zoo Atlanta hatched from eggs collected from road-struck female terrapins on the Jekyll Island Causeway. These turtles are raised for one year before being released back into Jekyll’s coastal marshes. This approach helps to ensure they have a good head start at life in the wild. The Georgia Sea Turtle Center has also implemented monitoring efforts, new road signage warning drivers to slow down for turtles, and a “turtle patrol” that travels up and down the causeway during nesting season assisting females to cross the road or picking up injured turtles for medical treatment.
Assistant Curator of Herpetology
Robert Hill is Zoo Atlanta’s Assistant Curator of Herpetology and has worked on a number of reptile and amphibian research and conservation projects in the southeastern U.S. and abroad. He and other Zoo Atlanta staff have participated in a long-running study of terrapins on Kiawah Island, South Carolina, along with helping rear and release terrapins with the Georgia Sea Turtle Center. Robert and the Herpetology Team assist with the raising of terrapins here at Zoo Atlanta so they can be reared safely and returned to the wild.
How can you help?
- Be mindful when driving (particularly in coastal areas or near bodies of water), especially during the spring when turtles are moving away from waterways and wetlands to nest. In most cases, turtles crossing the road are nesting females, so taking your time during this precious time can help ensure the next generation of turtles in that area has a better chance of survival.
- Volunteer! Many organizations like Zoo Atlanta and the Georgia Sea Turtle Center rely on dedicated volunteers to help with their everyday operations and to help spread the word about conservation.
- Donate to help us save diamondback terrapins.
Want to learn more?
Check out Georgia Sea Turtle Center!