Local schools protect endangered turtles

By WEEK Producer

January 23, 2013 Updated Jan 24, 2013 at 11:18 AM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- Five schools in Central Illinois are becoming foster parents to alligator snapping turtles, an endangered species native to Illinois.

Teachers and students came to pick up the 10 turtles Wednesday from the Peoria Zoo.

Officials at the Zoo has been taking care of them up until this point and will likely take them back from the schools when they get too big, with hopes of being able to release them back into the wild.

Paul Ritter with Pontiac High School has helped to spear-head the Operation Endangered Species along with the Zoo and the Department of Natural Resources.

"It's a great day to have kids taking ownership of their world,” said Ritter, a Biology teacher. “And wanting to be an active participant in making great things happen, including helping these turtles.”

"The endangered species need us,” said Clair Bammann, a Pontiac High School Sophomore. “Because a lot of being endangered is because of us, and its kind of our responsibility to help them get back on the map."

The zoo does have one alligator snapping turtle on display and they are hoping to help grow more baby turtles soon.

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