The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) says it got a big boost recently in its goal to save the spiny softshell turtle from extinction after a Quebec farming family agreed to sell part of its land to the NCC for a nominal sum.
The Gasser family owns farmland in the Pike River and Brome Missisquoi areas of the Montérégie. Part of the land bordered Pike River. The family decided to sell to the NCC to help protect the species.
“It’s cool, right? It’s something unique. It’s fun, it’s a way we can help the environment, a way we can help Mother Nature,” said David Gasser of Fermes Gasser. “It was pretty much symbolic. We did not sell it for what it was worth.”
The NCC’s Joel Bonin thanked the family for its support “on behalf of all turtles in Quebec.”
You can only find spiny softshell turtles on a small stretch of Pike River, south of Montreal, and in the Brome Missisquoi Bay in Quebec.
The spiny softshell turtles rarely travel far from water. In Canada, they’re only found in Quebec and parts of Ontario. The biggest threat to their existence is loss of habitat, and development along shorelines. The NCC says protecting where they live is critical to their survival.
“We also convey to the people who are using the lake to behave properly in front of the species, in addition to protecting their habitats,” said Bonin. “They even designed a nautical map for the users of the lake in order to avoid areas where the turtles will be found in shallow water and will be vulnerable to incidents with propellers with boats.”
The Granby zoo has a reintroduction program, keeping turtle eggs over the winter and releasing them in the spring. Since 2010 it’s released 1600 turtles.
The Gasser family says they’re happy to help, and that while they work their land, they also respect it.
“If you treat your environment right around you it will reward you, that is the way we think. If you take care of it, it will take care of you,” Gasser said.
Gasser hopes his small act of kindness means his children will keep seeing the turtles on the river for years to come.