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Pets

Meet Taco the turtle

Taco is part of an exhibit that educates the public on this state-endangered species’ plight.
Taco is part of an exhibit that educates the public on this state-endangered species’ plight.

No one should have a beef with the name “Taco” for the district’s newest hard-shell resident.

Taco the turtle will reign supreme at Isle a la Cache Museum now that voters have weighed in on the forest preserve’s turtle naming contest. “Taco” received the most votes of five suggested names from staff. The four other choices were: Marigold, Mshike’, Terra and Shelly. Marigold was only a few votes shy of taking the top spot.

Taco’s mission as a turtle ambassador will be to educate members of the public on the plight of her species, which is endangered in Illinois because of declining habitat and poachers. The naming contest took place on the district’s Facebook and Twitter accounts.

The 7-year-old turtle replaces a young male turtle, Buddy, who was sent back to a breeding program. Taco, who is lighter in color than other Blanding’s turtles, has a genetic mutation that prohibits her from returning to the wild or entering the breeding program.

Taco will live in a 4,000-pound display tank containing 300 gallons of water. The tank includes an air filtration system, an ultraviolet basking lamp and vegetation.

Having an ambassador turtle is part of a two-pronged effort the district launched after being accepted into the state’s Blanding’s Turtle Recovery Program. The other component involves raising hatchlings that will be released in DuPage County in the fall. Letting the turtles age in a protected environment before being released helps their odds of survival in the wild.

Blanding’s turtles are named after American naturalist William Blanding, who found a specimen in the Fox River in Kendall County in 1830. The turtles mostly are carnivorous and eat snails, insects, tadpoles, frogs and crayfish, and they can live to be more than 70 years old.

Illinois law prohibits the taking, possession, transportation, sale or disposal of any endangered species – including Blanding’s turtles – without a permit from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

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