SCCF biologists meet with box turtle expert
Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation’s Wildlife & Habitat Management Program biologists met on June 9 with Kenneth Dodd, Ph.D., a renowned herpetologist and box turtle expert at the University of Florida, to discuss the SCCF’s current data set and compare sampling techniques and observations.
Dodd has conducted the most comprehensive study on Florida box turtles to date, the SCCF reported.
“This collaboration of minds and ideas will help to gather the information required to conserve these magnificent reptiles for future generations,” Wildlife & Habitat Management Program Director Chris Lechowicz said.
SCCF technician Mike Mills and biology intern Kaity Seitz joined him on the trip.
The consortium of box turtle researchers also included Florida SouthWestern State College professor Jordan Donini. He is in his second year of research on Florida box turtles in Collier County as part of the Southwest Florida Turtle Project. Formerly from the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife, Donini has assisted the SCCF on its diamondback terrapin and Florida box turtle projects for years.
“We discussed strategies and new directions to explore in Southwest Florida for sustaining box turtle populations and addressing increased pressures from both development and turtle trafficking,” Lechowicz said. “We also explored new research areas such as behavior due to human disturbance and size distribution among populations (mainland versus island).”
Discussions surrounded protocols for data collection and specific parameters that can be recorded.
Dodd invited the group to his house to see his herpetological library and rescued box turtles that he cares for that were featured in his book called “North American Box Turtles: A Natural History,” including Charlie, a Gulf Coast box turtle.
The SCCF reported that North American box turtles have become a priority species for research and conservation work over the last three decades due to their long-life spans of 60-plus years, low fecundity and dwindling populations. They are one of the most poached turtle species in North America and on the frontline of black-market trafficking to feed the national and international pet trade.
However, box turtles’ biggest threat is development, as countless acres of natural habitat are destroyed each day for housing and commercial interests. Both government and non-government conservation agencies across the country have allocated more time and resources towards turtle conservation due to the escalating issues.