Turtle Bay Exploration Park recently welcomed four baby Western Pond Turtles. Turtle Bay is part of a Conservation Program with Sonoma State, San Francisco Zoo, and Oakland Zoo to help native pond turtles. “We wanted to be part of making a direct impact on animals beyond education and thought what better animal to help than turtles?” said Sharon Clay, Curator of Animal Programs for Turtle Bay. “Western Pond Turtles are our only native pond turtle and their population is in trouble.”
Sonoma State is doing research with this species. They take eggs out of the wild, incubate them in controlled environments, and hatch them out. With this method almost all the turtles survive, where they would not in the wild. Turtle Bay, San Francisco Zoo, and Oakland Zoo then play their part in what is called a Head Start Program for the turtles. “It’s just as it sounds,” said Clay, “We are giving these turtles a head start in life.” The turtles are raised at Turtle Bay or one of the zoos for one year and then they are released back out into the wild. When they are released, they are the size of at least a three-year-old; whereas, the four babies Turtle Bay received are currently about the size of a quarter. They are released when they are larger, healthier, and have a better chance at survival, which helps the entire population.
This year has been particularly hard as the drought has taken a toll on the species; last year around 100 eggs were found, but this year there were only four and Turtle Bay received all of them to help raise over the next year.
-from press release