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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