Last week, staff received two snapping turtles, one very large one with a shell length of at least one foot, and one very tiny one with a shell length of perhaps two inches. In the discussion of why they came to us in the middle of winter, it developed into a philosophical conversation of how humans impact biodiversity. The term “biodiversity” refers to the huge variety of life that is found on earth – from the simplest micro-organism to the complex system of a rainforest.
This snapping turtle was among several animals disturbed during work in the City of London in southern Ontario this winter. It will spend the winter at the Kawartha Turtle Trauma Centre.
Photo by Janalene Kingshott
Authorities in the city of London felt that they needed to expand their storm drainage system after several homes were flooded in 2012. They went through an extensive environmental impact assessment study and were eventually given permission to go ahead and deepen the existing storm drainage area. Local animal rights representatives were very concerned about the family of beavers who had taken up residence in the area, and six of them now reside at Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary.
Having exhausted all their options, the city workers began draining the ditch in preparation for bringing in heavy equipment to dig a much deeper ditch. As the water receded, it became obvious that there was other life in the water. The fish were caught up and carefully released in a nearby waterway. The frogs were taken to a frog sanctuary, leaving the two snapping turtles who had been disturbed from their hibernation deep in the mud, to be brought to Aspen Valley.
Despite the best efforts of the City of London staff to be careful of the biodiversity in this storm drainage area, different species were disturbed in the process of construction.
This is just a small example of the impact of human development on the creatures that share our planet. Even a relatively minor alteration in habitat affected the area’s wildlife. Think how many more species could be affected by a major development – birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and fish.
The concern is not just one of aesthetics; humans depend on the wellbeing and prosperity of earth’s ecological balance to provide a source of food, medicine, raw materials and clothing.
Just about any construction site anywhere in the world may be home to wildlife of different kinds. It’s difficult to imagine how many are surely destroyed in the process of development, regardless of urban or rural locations. Anything from agricultural pursuits, mining, building more and more housing, etc. will have an effect on the biodiversity in the region.
Regardless of how careful we are about disturbing habitat, there are still consequences, as demonstrated by the arrival of the two snapping turtles at a time when they should have been hibernating.
They have now been sent on to the Kawartha Turtle Trauma Centre, where they will remain until spring, when they will then be released into a safe place to carry on with their lives.
These were two lucky turtles that survived thanks to the caring nature of the people involved.
(These weekly articles are contributed by staff at the Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary. The sanctuary rehabilitates orphaned and injured wildlife with a mandate to educate the public towards a better understanding of local fauna.)