26 ornate box turtles hatch at Brookfield Zoo, Lincoln Park Zoo

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Twenty-six ornate box turtles hatched at Brookfield Zoo and Lincoln Park Zoo this week.

Once they're big enough and strong enough, the turtles will be reintroduced to their native habitats to help restore the wild population in western Illinois.

PHOTOS: Brookfield Zoo, Lincoln Park Zoo welcome 26 baby turtles

Zoo officials said the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service provided nine clutches of eggs as part of the conservation effort. These 26 hatchlings are the last to come out of their shells.

The ornate box turtles, a "threatened" species, will stay at each zoo for several months before being released onto protected sand prairies in Savannah, Ill.

"We're thrilled to be working with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and Lincoln Park Zoo on this hatch and head-start program for the Illinois state-listed 'Threatened' ornate box turtle," said Andy Snider, curator of herps and aquatics for the Chicago Zoological Society, which operates Brookfield Zoo. "Assisting in cooperative conservation projects for local species, such as this, is one of many ways zoos can contribute to the overall health and welfare of wild populations."
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