The last of 26 ornate box turtles hatched at Lincoln Park Zoo and Brookfield Zoo this week, but they won’t be staying.
The ornate box turtles will stay at the zoos for the next several months and once they’ve grown in size and strength, they will be released into sand prairies at the Upper Mississippi National Wildlife and Fish Refuge in Savannah, Ill., near the border of Illinois and Iowa, according to a release from the Chicago Zoological Society.
The turtles came from nine different clutches provided by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and are part of an effort to restore their native populations in western Illinois.
“Each year we learn more about ornate box turtles and their preferred temperature for incubation and what conditions best enable them to grow before returning to their native habitat,” Lincoln Park Zoo curator Diane Mulkerin said in the release.
“The collaboration among conservation organizations enables us to take the head-start program one step further by increasing the number of turtles we re-introduce each year,” she added.