Marc Ouellette came through his interest in turtles as many people did: through the pizza-loving quartet that crawled out of the sewers and into the hearts of children in the 80s. While the affection of some fans for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles waned, Ouellette stayed with him until adulthood.
He started Little RES Q in 2008 to house many types of reptiles, with a focus on caring for and finding homes for red-eared sliders like Apollo, Ouellette’s own 32-year-old turtle.
One of the rescue’s most memorable residents was a slippery girl named Audrey, who arrived at the shelter in 2011 when she was 20 years old. “Audrey was a special case, remembers Ouellette. He was often contacted by Toronto Animal Services, but Audrey stood out with her warped shell caused by years of neglect. “When they sent me pictures of her, I knew she was something different. And then I heard her story.
Audrey spent 20 years in a bucket and was only fed egg whites. Ouellette says the owner didn’t know any better; Audrey was returned to TAS upon the death of her owner.
It took a while, but Ouellette rehabilitated Audrey to a place where she was strong enough to swim. “She put us on the map,” he says. “She was our star.” Audrey died four years later and Ouellette built a turtle sanctuary in the northern Kawartha Lakes in her honor.
After suffering delays related to the pandemic, Ouellette hopes to open the location next year. Because sliders are an invasive species, the sanctuary requires extra precautions, such as fencing, “to keep everyone where they need to be.” Ouellette plans to shelter the larger female turtles (which can grow up to a foot long) in the sanctuary while adopting smaller male sliders (more suited to city life indoors) through the shelter.
Due to high demand, the shelter has exceeded capacity for almost as long as it has been open. Its two-year waiting list for people seeking to visit makes the sanctuary a must-have solution.
One of the recent achievements of Little RES Q is the red-eared slider Donatello (named after the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle). “He arrived at the shelter in September 2018. He therefore spent 1,058 days here,” says Ouellette. “Sometimes adoptions take a long time, but we find them at home. “
For people considering adopting a new family member, Ouellette has a compelling case for Team Turtle. “Everyone loves turtles,” he says. “There’s one watching me right now, begging for food,” he laughs, calling the turtles Olympic medal-winning beggars. “They can be as interactive as a cat or a dog.
“I saw people walking around their house, they took out their turtle and the turtle will follow them,” he adds. “They tend to be a more interactive reptile. They are actually quite fun to watch.
And don’t forget the turtles just because cuddly creatures can be faster. “They will crawl on your leg,” says Ouelette. “I made Apollo fall asleep on my chest. “
Turtles are truly a family affair for Ouellette; her two-and-a-half-year-old son takes care of the rescue residents. “He’s going to be like Steve Irwin’s son when it’s time for him to take over,” Ouellete said, referring to the late “Crocodile Hunter” on television. “We have cats, dogs, turtles and snakes in the house. For him, they are just family.
JOIN THE CONVERSATION