I am pleased to report that all of last fall's western pond turtle hatchlings are thriving in the Conservation Lab at the Oregon Zoo. As always, visitors to the zoo's Cascades Stream & Pond building are invited to check on the turtles' progress and say "hello!"
Last fall, our multi-agency Western Pond Turtle Conservation Team (that also include representatives from the Woodland Park Zoo and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife) conducted a Population Viability Analysis (PVA) and the final report is due imminently. We will share report findings with our GlobalGiving supporters when they become available. After some 22 years of raising and releasing turtles to supplement dwindling populations in the wild, field biologists have identified two key issues that need to be addressed: 1) a disappointingly low number of wild, juvenile turtles (presumable due to ongoing bullfrog predation), and 2) potential adult mortality due to shell disease.
Finding out the scale, seriousness and cause of shell disease is a high priority as it may be a source of adult mortality which is a key to population sustainability. We will be working with Conservation Team partners this year to tackle the disease issue and will continue to collect juvenile turtles in the wild and head start them for release in the Columbia River Gorge. Our goal, as always, is a self-sustaining network of western pond turtles populations in Washington State. Turtles are an important component of wetland ecosystems and sensitive indicators of wetland integrity and health. Wetlands provide us with clean water, nutrient recycling, flood protection, and support abundant wildlife populations including salmon in the Columbia River.
Thank you again for your generous support of this important conservation effort and we hope to see you at the zoo!
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