A turtle never tells

In our latest newsletter, we spotlight the ‘reigning queen of the world’

We’ll get to the turtles, I promise. 

But first, we need to address the elephant in the room: the blockades, protests and occupations across the country by those opposed to vaccine mandates.

The police response to these events? A whole lot different than the reaction to the 2020 Indigenous-led rail blockades against the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

Take Alberta, which enacted a law at the time to defend so-called critical infrastructure, laying out hefty penalties and jail time for those blocking anything from sidewalks to pipelines.

The hesitation to use that legislation in the enforcement of the Coutts, Alta., border blockade has led First Nations leaders in the province to point to what they say is a racist double standard, Drew Anderson reports.

It’s also worth noting that journalists across the country covering these blockades have been subject to threats, intimidation and harassment. The Narwhal stands with the Canadian Association of Journalists in denouncing these attacks.

Now, as promised…

“Because the news cycle has been a dumpster fire of insane things,” Ontario reporter Fatima Syed told me, “I think people really enjoyed just taking a break and meeting Grace.”

Who’s Grace? A snapping turtle in Haliburton County, Ont., who began walking the Earth around 1897 — the year future prime minister Lester B. Pearson was born.

The good vibes have been pouring into Fatima’s inbox ever since her story on Ontario’s oldest known female turtle was published.

Among those messages are some well-meaning scientists questioning exactly how old Grace really is (it’s extremely hard to nail down a turtle’s age: a turtle never tells and all that). “But they agree that she’s old and she’s very big and needs to be protected,” Fatima says. “And that she’s a queen, obviously.”

“She is the reigning queen of the world.”

That reigning queen of the world first caught Leora Berman’s attention in 2018, when she got a call about a 38-centimetre-long turtle spotted in front of a school bus. It took two biologists to lift the chonky queen away from the vehicle.

“I called her Grace because she’s got one eye and it is by grace that she is still alive,” Berman, the founder of two non-profit volunteer groups dedicated to turtle protection, told Fatima.

Turtles can live for two centuries, but the reality is many are hit by drivers; these species walk the same path from nest to hibernation their entire lives, meaning many now cross roads that used to be farmland or forests.

The tension between protection and development is one that’s playing out across Ontario, where all eight turtle species are classified as different levels of species-at-risk.

That’s left regular citizens to step up to make sure Grace and other turtles live another day, with volunteer groups popping up across the province.

One of those groups is in Brampton, where a large wetland has long been left to fend for itself. Turtles have the incredible capacity to help create new habitats for fish and wildlife and even create reservoirs in wetlands experiencing drought conditions.

“In my head I’m thinking of all the uncles and aunties that I know who live in Brampton watching for turtles,” Fatima says with a laugh.

Take care and live to 120,

Arik Ligeti
Director of audience

Inside The Narwhal

Shawn Parkinson, The Narwhal's first art director.
Shawn Parkinson is The Narwhal’s first art director. Photo: Alia Youssef / The Narwhal

Crafting custom turtle illustrations? ✔️
Working with talented photographers? ✔️
Sharing musical gems on our Slack workspace? ✔️

Shawn Parkinson joined The Narwhal’s pod in January as our first-ever art director — and he hasn’t missed a beat. In this Q&A, he talks about the origins of his love for ping pong and art (drawing NHL logos!), his dreams for The Narwhal’s year ahead and how he sees good design leading to good journalism.

“We all learn and process information in different ways; the right graphic at the right moment can communicate information or an idea that someone might have missed otherwise,” Shawn told executive editor Carol Linnitt. “I’ve read about experiments that found presenting information visually increased the accuracy of people’s beliefs about charged issues, something I feel is very necessary in 2022.”

This week in The Narwhal

Federal government rejects second call for review of Ontario’s Bradford Bypass highway project

Ontario Greenbelt: A truck drives past a sign that says "entering the greenbelt"

By Emma McIntosh

Environmentalists’ attempt to slow down the controversial Ford government project was shut down by Federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault. Read more.

Scientists make final bid to stop Port of Vancouver’s terminal expansion: ‘they can’t mitigate the consequences’

A sunset view of the Port of Vancouver's Roberts Bank terminal

By Stephanie Wood

The port promises it can mitigate the impacts of the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 expansion on endangered species like Chinook salmon and southern resident killer whales. But in a recent letter to Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault, scientists argue the port’s final plan still impacts more than 100 species of concern in the heart of the Fraser River estuary. Read more.

Two decades and $30 million later, a B.C. mine proposal is officially dead

The Morrison mine proposal was rejected twice based on impacts to the Skeena watershed, pictured here.

By Matt Simmons

Pacific Booker Minerals is being told for the second time its proposed Morrison mine is a no-go for sensitive salmon habitat in northwest B.C. — leaving some wondering why the province’s environmental assessment process is so inefficient. Read more.

What we’re reading

Globe and Mail: B.C. ranchers who suffered catastrophic flood damage desperate for help

GIF of Finding Nemo turtle saying "righteous!"

When you find out volunteer groups are working to save your species. Tell your friends to honk for turtles and sign up for our newsletter for more wildlife news.

Highway 413 threatens more Ontario conservation lands than publicized

The Ontario government’s proposed Highway 413 would cut through not just one but three parcels of land set aside for conservation, according to an internal...

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