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Woodland Park Zoo "Shellebrate" World Turtle Day

Posted By : The Animal Facts Editorial Team

Date: May 24, 2021 9:50 am

World Turtle Day Woodland Park Zoo

Western pond turtles are hatched at Woodland Park Zoo and given a head start under the care of zoo experts. This juvenile turtle is about to be released to a protected site. The conservation project is celebrating 30 years of recovery for the endangered reptile. 

Photo Credit: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo

Woodland Park Zoo have celebrated 30 years of their western pond turtle "headstart" program on World Turtle Day, held each year on May 23. This program is a partnership between the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Woodland Park Zoo.

Western pond turtles are one of two native turtle species in Washington. By 1990 their population had dropped as low as 150 bringing them close to extinction. In 1991 the head start program began to raise young turtles at the zoo and eventually release them in to the wild. Oregon Zoo and other state, federal, and private partners have since joined the effort.

World Turtle Day Woodland Park Zoo

Western pond turtles are hatched at Woodland Park Zoo and given a head start under the care of zoo experts. This juvenile turtle is about to be released to a protected site. The conservation project is celebrating 30 years of recovery for the endangered reptile. 

Photo Credit: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo

The head start program is the longest running endangered species program in the state of Washington. Over the past 30 years 2,500 turtles have been released as part of the program. This has re-established two populations in Washington. Surveys since the releases have indicated that 800 of the released turtles survive.

“Thanks to the generous support of our zoo guests, members, and donors, the western pond turtle is making a slow and steady recovery,” said Woodland Park Zoo Vice President of Conservation Initiatives Peter Zahler.

“To ensure the resilient western pond turtle continues to survive into the future, we all can do some very practical things in our everyday lives to help these special animals. From clean gardening at home and limiting single plastic use to not releasing unwanted pets or other non-native animals into wild habitat to visiting the zoo to help support wildlife conservation—these actions can all have a huge impact on helping western pond turtles and all wildlife.”

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Turtles have existed on Earth for 220 million years. They can be found on every continent except Antarctica. Over 350 different species of turtle exist.

Unfortunately these ancient reptiles which have survived for millions of years are now threatened by humans. Over half of the turtle species are now endangered. They face threats including habitat loss and degradation, overhunting, competition with non-native species and the illegal pet trade.

You can help protect turtles by reducing pollutant use in your garden, completing habitat restoration programs and not releasing pet turtles in to the environment where they may outcompete native turtles.

World Turtle Day Woodland Park Zoo

Western pond turtles are hatched at Woodland Park Zoo and given a head start under the care of zoo experts. This juvenile turtle is about to be released to a protected site. The conservation project is celebrating 30 years of recovery for the endangered reptile. 

Photo Credit: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo

Learn more about Turtles here – Turtle Fact File | The Animal Facts

Learn more about the Woodland Park Zoo on their website – Woodland Park Zoo

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