GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — John Ball Zoo is raising baby eastern box turtles in an effort to prevent population decreases.

The zoo has teamed up with Grand Valley State University and Pierce Cedar Creek Institute to help raise the turtles and protect them from predators.

It’s a conservation practice called head starting. According to the zoo, head starting is when “young animals are raised with human intervention and then raised into the wild when they are less susceptible to predators.”

The issue facing Michigan turtles is the booming raccoon population because raccoons are top predators for baby turtles, the zoo said in a news release.

There are currently 12 baby turtles being raised at the zoo. The head-started turtles are planned to be released in May near the Pierce Cedar Creek Institute in Barry County.

“Many people don’t realize that the turtles we sometimes see in our backyards or crossing the street are imperiled, and this important project helps us understand how we can further protect this valuable species,” Bill Flanagan, conservation manager at John Ball Zoo, said in a news release.

Over the last three seasons, the zoo said it has raised and released 74 turtles.