Twenty ornate box turtles have been released into the wild, in the Upper Mississippi Wildlife and Fish Refuge near Thomson and Savanna, as part of efforts to restore natural grasslands and prairies.
Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released the turtles on Wednesday. They hatched from eggs at the zoo where they were raised without the threat of predators.
Before their release, they got unique markings and transmitters so they can be tracked by researchers.
Lincoln Park Zoo curator Diane Mulkerin says researchers will learn about the turtles’ nesting grounds, diet and preferred environment.
Ornate box turtles have been listed as a threatened species since 2009. The Fish and Wildlife Service wants to populate the area with 100 turtles by 2020.
There also are populations in Whiteside, Lee and Ogle counties.