Oregon Zoo Foundation

The mission of the Oregon Zoo Foundation is to foster community pride and involvement in the Oregon Zoo and to secure financial support for zoo conservation, education and animal welfare programs. These programs advance the zoo's mission to inspire the community to respect animals and to take action on behalf of the natural world by creating engaging experiences and advancing the highest level of animal welfare, environmental literacy and conservation science.
Oct 19, 2010

October 2010 Update: Hatchling Roundup!

A newly-hatched turtle arrives at the zoo!
A newly-hatched turtle arrives at the zoo!

Many thanks to everyone who has contributed to the success of this conservation effort.  Here's the latest news on the turtle project!

ZOO’S TURTLE ROUNDUP SAVES HATCHLINGS FROM PREDATORS

Visitors can see endangered western pond turtles until they grow large enough for release

 PORTLAND, Ore. –– October 6, 2010 - It’s roundup time in the Northwest! For nearly a decade, the Oregon Zoo has employed a “head ’em up and move ’em out” strategy in its efforts to save endangered western pond turtles.

 Earlier this month, the zoo and its conservation partners rounded up turtle hatchlings from southwest Washington lakes to rear in a protected environment until they are big enough to be released back into the wild. Visitors can now view nearly 40 hatchlings –– each a bit larger than a quarter –– at the zoo’s conservation station, located in the Cascade Stream and Pond Building.

 Over the next nine months, zoo staff members will monitor and weigh the rare turtles as they grow. Once they reach a suitable weight of more than 2.5 ounces, the turtles will be returned to the wild and monitored for safety.

 “When we release the turtles, they’re big enough that predators like non-native bullfrogs are no longer a threat,” said David Shepherdson, the zoo’s conservation biologist. “The months the turtles spend at the zoo give them a real edge — scientists estimate that 95 percent of the turtles we’ve released into the Columbia River Gorge have survived.”

 Twenty years ago, western pond turtles had nearly disappeared from Washington, their native habitat, with only 150 turtles left in the wild. Today, researchers estimate there are about 1,600.

 Habitat degradation and disease continue to endanger the species, but the biggest threat to fragile baby turtles is the bullfrog. Native to areas east of the Rockies, this nonindigenous frog has thrived throughout the West, driving pond turtles and a host of other small, vulnerable aquatic species to the brink of extinction.

 “The Western Pond Turtle Recovery Project is a collaborative effort of the Oregon Zoo, Woodland Park Zoo, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Bonneville Power Administration,” said Kim Smith, zoo director. “We’re proud to be a partner in the effort to help restore the western pond turtle population and its habitat in the wild.”

 Every summer, wildlife recovery biologists monitor female turtles in the field to determine where they will dig their nests. Once the turtles have laid their eggs, workers cover the nests with wire “exclosure” cages that help prevent predators from eating the eggs. The eggs are then allowed to incubate naturally, and hatchlings are collected in the fall.

 The hatchlings are barely the size of a quarter when they are taken to the Oregon Zoo and the Woodland Park Zoo. Unlike wild turtles, the zoo turtles are fed and kept warm throughout the winter, so by their summer release, the 10-month-olds are as big as wild 3-year-old turtles.

 “We make sure our turtles can hold their own before releasing them into the wild,” Shepherdson said.

The zoo is a service of Metro, and is dedicated to its mission of inspiring the community to create a better future for wildlife. With award-winning programs in conservation, exhibits, education and animal enrichment, the zoo is a national leader in animal welfare and wildlife preservation. Committed to conservation, the zoo is currently working to save many endangered and threatened species, including California condors, Washington’s pygmy rabbits, Oregon silverspot and Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies, western pond turtles, Oregon spotted frogs and Kincaid’s lupine.

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Jun 15, 2010

Turtle Update - spring 2010

Thanks to everyone for helping with our western pond turtle head start program. With your help, the Oregon Zoo will continue to help rebuild wild populations of this endangered species with the ultimate goal of self-sustaining turtle populations in the Pacific Northwest.

We've had a busy spring here in Portland with 65 young turtles under care here at the Zoo. Sometime in early August, these charismatic little guys will be released back into the wild in ponds near the Columbia River. After nearly a year of eating and growing inside our Conservation Center located in our Cascade Stream and Pond building, these turtles are nearing the size required for release.

These baby turtles arrived as hatchlings last September- each at an average weight of 7 grams. Now they tip the scales at more than 75 grams apiece! Four "holdover" turtles from 2008, now weighing up to 250 grams, will also be returned to the wild. All will be too big for bullfrogs and largemouth bass to eat and, hopefully, they'll spend the next 9 years growing to the age when they can breed and produce more turtles.

Before they are released, each young turtle will be micro-chipped with its unique identification number and have a harmless, small notch made in their carapace to help Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife field biologists to identify them without needing to catch them again. Release day is a special occasion. It's great to see them swim off, even if keepers are sometimes a little sad to see them go.

But then, in September, we'll receive another 60-70 baby turtles and the growing process will begin all over again. If you find yourself in Portland, Oregon and are interested in seeing our current population of young turtles, please stop by and say "hello!"

Thanks again to everyone for your help with this important conservation project. GlobalGivcing supporters DO make a difference and demonstrate progress on our stated mission: "to inspire our commuinity to create a better future for wildlife."

Feb 17, 2010

Our baby pond turtles are growing quickly!

I’m happy to report that 68 juvenile Western pond turtles are thriving in their temporary home at the Oregon Zoo. By July, they should be ready for release in the Columbia River Gorge. Here’s a recap of what we’ve done during the past 8 months to bring these turtles to the Zoo and then help them grow three times faster than they would in the wild:

Last summer, wildlife recovery workers monitored female pond turtles in Washington State to determine where they would dig nests; once the turtles laid their eggs, workers covered the nests with wire “exclosure” cages to keep predators from eating the incubating eggs. In September, newly-hatched turtles were collected from these nests and either brought here to the Oregon Zoo or taken to the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle (Woodland Park has a turtle “head-start” program, too).

The hatchlings have since grown from the size of a quarter (they weighed 6-9 grams at hatching) to 2.5” in diameter, thanks to lots of heat, light and food. We use heat lamps to trick the turtles into thinking they live in a kind of perpetual summer, so instead of becoming dormant like their species usually does in winter, the turtles have kept on eating and growing. By the time they’re released this summer, they will have reached the size of a wild three-year-old pond turtle.

Thank you to everyone who has supported this project – you’re helping to save a species from extinction. Please let us know if you have any comments or questions about the project’s progress or pond turtles in general. We want as many people as possible to learn about and be involved with the Zoo’s conservation work (we also have programs for endangered butterflies, frogs, California condors, and other species). So spread the word! Tell your friends and family members about how they can help pond turtles.

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