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.
Feb 7, 2017

Western Pond Turtle Winter Update

Zoo Director Don Moore with a western pond turtle
Zoo Director Don Moore with a western pond turtle

Thank you for your support of western pond turtle conservation. Like many of us, the 14 turtles currently in the Oregon Zoo’s Conservation Lab are looking forward to warmer weather so they can begin going outside. As early as May, the hatchlings will start exploring the outdoors in an effort to acclimate them for a late summer release.

Starting early March, you will be able to visit the western pond turtles in their new home located in the Oregon Zoo’s brand new Education Center. The habitat includes interpretive graphics and hands-on displays with a large window for easy viewing of the turtles. We invite you to come see the turtles and explore the facility, which includes an Insect Zoo, beautiful modern classrooms, lab equipment, nature play areas, and spaces for the zoo’s youth and teen programs.

Lastly, the lead keeper for this batch of hatchlings recently attended the annual western pond turtle meeting in Olympia and came back with plenty of ideas about incubation, husbandry, and more. Another topic at the meeting was the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s plan to conduct population assessments of the turtles at the release sites to track the progress of this vital program.

Thank you very much for your support of these vulnerable and important animals!  

Nov 14, 2016

Western Pond Turtles Conservation Report Fall 2016

Copyright Oregon Zoo / photo by Kathy Street
Copyright Oregon Zoo / photo by Kathy Street
For seventh time in five years, Oregon Zoo earns kudos at national zoo conference

The Oregon Zoo drew praise from colleagues at zoos and aquariums across the continent this Fall, earning another prestigious award from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums — its seventh such honor over the past five years.

This year, the Oregon Zoo and its conservation partners at Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo took top honors in the North American Conservation Awards category for the collaborative western pond turtle recovery project. The award recognizes "exceptional efforts toward regional habitat preservation, species restoration and support of biodiversity."

In 1990, only two pond turtle sites were left in Washington. Today, six populations have been established with two in Puget Sound and four in the Columbia River Gorge. More than 1,800 turtles have been head-started and released to these sites. Studies have revealed that an estimated 95 percent of turtles released in the Columbia River Gorge survived their first year.

"We are deeply honored," said Dr. Don Moore, Oregon Zoo director. "These awards are the highest distinction in the zoo community. They represent the respect shown for the Oregon Zoo by our peers from around the world."

Since 2012, the Oregon Zoo has been recognized with seven of the association's major annual awards: four for conservation work on behalf of imperiled Northwest species, one for environmental efforts in the zoo's day-to-day operations, and two for marketing excellence.

"Earning that many awards over the span of five years is quite an accomplishment," said AZA interim president and CEO Kris Vehrs. "Oregonians can be very proud of their zoo — it's one of the top zoos in North America."

The Western Pond Turtle Recovery Project is a collaborative effort by the Oregon Zoo, Woodland Park Zoo, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bonneville Power Administration, USDA Forest Service and other partners. To learn more, visit www.oregonzoo.org/turtles.

Aug 17, 2016

Western Pond Turtle Summer 2016 Conservation Report

Bullfrogs look forward to this time of year the way some locals anticipate Hood strawberry season. It's the time when baby western pond turtles in the Columbia River Gorge emerge from months of dormancy and begin swimming about — making an ideal "fun size" snack for the voracious, non-native American bullfrog.

"When you're as small as these guys are, you're the perfect size for a lot of animals to eat," said Oregon Zoo keeper Michelle Schireman. "And the biggest problem they have right now are the invasive, or introduced, bullfrogs — they just scoop them up like M&M's."

Native to the eastern United States — but considered an invasive species here — the American bullfrog is the largest frog species on the continent. It can tip the scales at more than a pound and has been driving pond turtles and a host of other small, vulnerable aquatic species to the brink of extinction.

Last week, Schireman and her colleagues took charge of 20 western pond turtle hatchlings, collected by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Service from sites in the Columbia Gorge. The zoo is "head-starting" these tiny turtles, caring for them until next spring when they will be large enough to avoid the bullfrogs and have a fighting chance on their own in the wild.

Unlike recovery programs for other endangered species like California condors or Taylor's checkerspot butterflies — which take place offsite or behind the scenes — this conservation effort can be seen by zoo visitors. The turtle conservation lab is in the Cascade Stream and Pond portion of the zoo's Great Northwest section.

The turtles experience summer year-round, with heat lamps and plentiful food, so they don't go into dormancy. "Life's pretty easy here in the lab if you're a little pond turtle," Schireman said. "As a result, they grow to about the size of a 3-year-old during the nine months that they stay with us."

Once the turtles reach about 70 grams (a little more than 2 ounces), they are returned to their natural habitat and monitored for safety.

The western pond turtle, once common from Baja California to the Puget Sound, is listed as an endangered species in Washington and a sensitive species in Oregon. The species is currently under USFW review to determine whether it will be given federal protection under the Endangered Species Act. Two decades ago, western pond turtles were on the verge of completely dying out in Washington, with fewer than 100 turtles left in the state.

"We're at a critical point with this species," Schireman said. "We really have to grow them up in their population numbers if we're going to save them in time."

There have been some encouraging signs. In one study, scientists estimated that 95 percent of turtles released back to sites in the Columbia Gorge survive annually, and today nearly 1,000 turtles range across six ponds in the Columbia Gorge.

Global Giving donors are key partners in the fight to save this species. Thank you!

 
   

donate now:

An anonymous donor will match all new monthly recurring donations, but only if 75% of donors upgrade to a recurring donation today.
Terms and conditions apply.
Make a monthly recurring donation on your credit card. You can cancel at any time.
Make a donation in honor or memory of:
What kind of card would you like to send?
How much would you like to donate?
  • $10
    (USD)
    give
  • $20
    (USD)
    give
  • $60
    (USD)
    give
  • $100
    (USD)
    give
  • $338
    (USD)
    give
  • $900
    (USD)
    give
  • $1,352
    (USD)
    give
  • $16,228
    (USD)
    give
  • $10
    each month

    (USD)
    give
  • $20
    each month

    (USD)
    give
  • $60
    each month

    (USD)
    give
  • $100
    each month

    (USD)
    give
  • $338
    each month

    (USD)
    give
  • $900
    each month

    (USD)
    give
  • $1,352
    each month

    (USD)
    give
  • $16,228
    each month

    (USD)
    give
  • $
    give
gift Make this donation a gift, in honor of, or in memory of someone?

Reviews of Oregon Zoo Foundation

Great Nonprofits
Read and write reviews about Oregon Zoo Foundation on GreatNonProfits.org.
WARNING: Javascript is currently disabled or is not available in your browser. GlobalGiving makes extensive use of Javascript and will not function properly with Javascript disabled. Please enable Javascript and refresh this page.