Oakland, California (EastBayDaily) — On Friday, August 17, 2012, zoo keepers along with biologists from Sonoma State University are set to release forty-four small Western Pond Turtles into the wild.
The release is part of a “Head Start” coalition to save these rare turtles. For more than five years, Oakland Zoo has partnered with Sonoma State University and San Francisco Zoo to research, raise, and release Western Pond Turtles back into the wild. Based on a successful program at Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, SSU researchers and Oakland Zoo staff are studying nesting patterns, breeding, habitat threats, incubation, growth, and diets of the turtles.
“It is extremely rewarding to be so closely involved with such an important conservation effort,” said Margaret Rousser, Zoological Manager at Oakland Zoo. “Being able to release the turtles in the wild knowing that they will have the best chance of survival is indescribable.”
Turtle eggs are collected each year from a site in Lake County and transported to SSU for incubation. Once the eggs hatch, the tiny turtles are raised by surrogate parents (Zoo Keepers) at Oakland Zoo and San Francisco Zoo. To date, Oakland Zoo has fostered more than 100 baby turtles until they were large enough to live in the wild. This year, the turtle eggs were incubated in the field as opposed to Sonoma State or Oakland Zoo, which will give researchers data on the turtles’ sex ratio of females versus males in the wild. This is important because the sex of a turtle is dependent on the turtle egg’s temperature, which is determined by the environment.
The goal of the Head Start program is to raise the hatchlings for the first year under optimal conditions. By creating the best possible environment for the turtles, they can grow three to four times faster than they would in the wild. Once large enough in size, juvenile turtles are be released into a lake in Lake County, having grown too big to be eaten by the most common predators, such as big mouth bass and eastern bull frogs.
ABOUT OAKLAND ZOO: The award-winning Oakland Zoo is home to more than 660 native and exotic animals. Nestled in the Oakland Hills, in 500-acre Knowland Park, the Zoo is located at 9777 Golf Links Road, off Highway 580. The East Bay Zoological Society (Oakland Zoo) is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization supported in part by members, contributions, the City of Oakland and the East Bay Regional Parks. For more information please visit our website at http://www.oaklandzoo.org.
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