Two species of turtles assessed as endangered in Canada are the focus of the latest issue from Canada Post.
The spotted turtle (Clemmys guttata) and Blanding’s turtle (Emydoidea blandingii) – two of Canada’s eight fresh-water turtle species – were assessed as endangered by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) in 2014 and 2016, respectively.
According to Canada’s 2002 Species at Risk Act, endangered species face “imminent extirpation or extinction,” and while only two of the country’s turtles carry such a designation, all eight of Canada’s turtle species are – or have a population or subspecies that are – deemed of “special concern.”
In Canada, Blanding’s turtles live in the centre of southwestern Nova Scotia and around the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence region of Ontario and Québec. Able to survive and reproduce well into their 80s, they are among the longest-living species of their freshwater kin; however, encroaching development of their freshwater habitat, including ponds, marshes and the shorelines of shallow lakes and streams, puts their existence at significant risk.
Meanwhile, Canadian populations of the spotted turtle are now found only in isolated pockets around central and southern Ontario. Once much more common, the province’s smallest turtle, which carries a shell less than 13 centimetres long, is a victim of habitat loss and collection for the illegal pet trade. The tiny, hardy reptile survives the long, cold winters by hibernating – singly or communally – in the mud at the bottom of ice-covered wetlands or in underwater burrows.
“While Blanding’s turtles and spotted turtles spend most of their lives in wetland habitats, their stamps will travel across the country to make us more mindful of what threatens our reptilian friends,” wrote Jim Phillips, Canada Post director of stamp services, in the April-June issue of the Crown corporation’s Details magazine.
The stamps, which were issued May 23, were designed by artist Adrian Horvath and illustrator Sarah Still.
“I’ve always enjoyed realism and highly detailed work. I believe nature already provides us with beautiful subjects. It’s my pleasure to help others see them as I do,” said Still.
Horvath, on the other hand, “wanted these turtles to pop off the stamp,” he said, adding there was a challenge in finding a way to break the subjects out of the stamp frame in a way that worked as a single stamp on a letter; in a 10-stamp booklet; and as a se-tenant pair on the souvenir sheet and official first-day cover, which was cancelled in Maitland Bridge, N.S.
According to COSEWIC, habitat loss, road mortality and illegal collection are among the biggest threats to the two species featured on these stamps. Since turtles are exceptionally long-living creatures that breed as slowly as they move, the loss of even a single adult is devastating.
“I want people to be in awe of these beautiful creatures – and to enjoy the playfulness of the stamps,” added Horvath. “I hope this stamp issue inspires people to find out what they can to help these species flourish and to preserve their habitat.”
Printed by the Canadian Bank Note Company, a total of 200,000 booklets and 75,000 souvenir sheets were produced using four-colour lithography.