Tuesday, January 27, 2015 Toronto, Ontario — The Toronto Zoo and the Ontario Association of Crime Stoppers unveiled their latest co-venture, today at the Zoo. John Tracogna, CEO Toronto Zoo, Dr. Andrew Lentini, Curator of Amphibians and Reptiles Toronto Zoo, and David Forster, President of the Ontario Association of Crime Stoppers and the elected Canadian Representative to Crime Stoppers International, were in attendance to support the newest advertising campaign, which focuses on the illegal harvest and trade of turtles. This initiative is aimed at educating and encouraging individuals to help put an end to this shocking crime. It is a fact that the trafficking of wildlife is on par with the illegal trade in guns, drugs and people.
Like elephant ivory and rhino horns, turtles taken from the wild are part of a global illegal wildlife trade estimated to be worth as much as $30 billion a year. Whether it’s a professional poacher involved in the illegal pet trade, or an individual capturing and trying to sell a rare species, the trade in turtles is a real and serious issue in our own backyards. Rare turtles in Ontario such as wood turtles, spotted turtles and Blanding’s turtles are prized by collectors addicted to adding these species to their collections. Species such as snapping turtles are wanted for both food and for collectors.
Seven of eight turtle species in Ontario are at risk and although several factors contribute to this issue, illegal turtle trade is something that can be reduced through education and the public’s willingness to report suspected illegal activities through avenues like Crime Stoppers. Given the length of time most turtles take to mature and reproduce, taking even one turtle from the wild can hurt the entire population. As they continue to lose habitat, are hit by vehicles, and their eggs are eaten by predators such as skunks and raccoons, turtle poaching and trade could tip the scale. By submitting your observations about these illegal activities you contribute to the protection of all turtle species.
“Poaching is a serious issue which can have detrimental impacts on the sustainability of turtle populations,” says Dr. Andrew Lentini, Curator of Amphibians and Reptiles Toronto Zoo. “The Toronto Zoo is proud to be a long-standing partner of the Ontario Association of Crime Stoppers. The partnership between Toronto Zoo and Crime Stoppers to address the serious issue of illegal turtle, and other wildlife harvest and trade provides the ideal communications network for these issues”.
“The illegal trade of wildlife is the fourth most lucrative criminal activity world-wide, only exceeded by the trade of narcotics, counterfeiting and human trafficking", says David Forster, President of the Ontario Association of Crime Stoppers and the elected Canadian Representative to Crime Stoppers International. "Crime Stopper programs throughout Ontario, Canada and the world are assisting law enforcement by engaging the community to anonymously report these illegal activities to Crime Stoppers”.
Crime Stoppers and the Toronto Zoo, encourage people to get involved and help prevent turtle poaching. You can help by:
1. Become a citizen scientist! Contribute sightings of turtles you see in the wild to Ontario Turtle Tally at torontozoo.com. The data you submit is used to map species’ locations across the province, and helps crime fighters and biologists identify areas where at risk populations live, and be vigilant in those areas.
2. If you suspect poaching, call Crime Stoppers toll-free any time anonymously at 1-800-222-TIPS(8477) or call the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry tip line at 1-877-847-7667.
3. Spread the word. Many people don’t realize that taking threatened animals from the wild is illegal.
4. Watch for suspicious activity in natural areas, including off-trail activities, overnight parking, or anglers carrying unusual equipment such as snares or a large number of buckets.
To learn more about Crime Stoppers please visit ontariocrimestoppers.ca
CLICK HERE to download the poster.