That's just the way the old turtles released this week had come to the zoo last summer.
"We've been raising them ever since, and the goal of the program is to basically get them to a good size and weight so when we put them out in the wild they have a better chance of survival," said Sharon Dewar, a spokeswoman for the zoo. "Eggs and newborns, or newly hatched turtles, are really susceptible to" predators.
The grown turtles were let loose this week in the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge near the far western Illinois town of Savanna as part of a conservation partnership with the Lake County Forest Preserve District and the Fish & Wildlife Service.
Dewar said the Fish & Wildlife Service tracks wild turtles, which are threatened in Illinois, to determine when they will lay eggs. The eggs brought to the zoo on Thursday may be joined by more in the days to come.
"They will go to the incubation chambers and our herpetologist will monitor them and make sure they have the appropriate accommodations, humidity — all the things turtle eggs need," Dewar said. "And we'll hatch out some turtles this fall."
The turtles won't be viewable to the public because animals that are going to be released into the wild shouldn't be exposed to viruses that humans and zoo animals may carry, Dewar said.
"However, we do have one — what we call an ambassador ornate turtle — and he or she is part of our education department, and we do a Meet an Animal every day at the zoo," Dewar said. "And this turtle is one of those program animals that does come out to get up close and personal with the" visitors."
The turtles released into the wild have tracker devices and will be monitored, Dewar said.