California’s only native turtle species is in trouble – and the Santa Barbara Zoo is part of a national effort to help save it from extinction.
GEORGE (aka SAQ VON HELMET)
- Admitted as a hatchling to California Wildlife Center in February 2013 with injuries to shell and jaw after being dropped by gull in flight
- Is unable to be released back into the wild because his jaw healed in such a way that he can no longer catch live prey
- Fostered by a California State Parks/Angeles District scientist, who gave him his unusual name
- Is easily identified by his distinctive jaw
- Was found by U.S. Geological Survey with a head injury
- Has healed, but the injury makes him unable to return to the wild
- Is much shyer than George, more likely to hide under driftwood and plants
Interested in naming this turtle? Contact Lauren at (805) 679-8483 or send an email.
From the Keepers“Typically, these turtles are most visible on sunny spring and summer days, and can be found basking along the water’s edge. Approach slowly though, as they are quick to dive back into their pond for safety. Of the two, George tends to be a bit more active and curious while the other turtle is a bit shy and likes to hide. If you look at the exhibit long enough, George usually comes to check you out. I’m not sure if he is looking for a meal or is just curious, but he is definitely interested!” – Mark Heully, Curator, Ectotherms
Good News from Washington StateWestern pond turtles in Washington State were once near extinction with only around 150 animals remaining. Thanks to concerted breeding and reintroduction efforts, there are now between 800 and 1,200 individuals at six sites. Collaborations in other regions are currently underway, and include participation by AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums.
The Western pond turtle is threatened throughout much of its range along the Pacific coast, all the way from British Columbia to Baja California. Causes of the dramatic population decline vary, but include habitat loss, predation by non-native species such as bullfrogs, and competition for resources by red-eared slider turtles, also an invasive species. Western pond turtles are listed as Vulnerable by the IUCS Red List.
Saving Animals From ExtinctionWestern pond turtle is one of the 10 species in SAFE (Saving Animals From Extinction), a partnership of the entire AZA-accredited zoo and aquarium community to focus on saving species in the wild through conservation science, wildlife expertise, and engaging their more than 180 million visitors. Find out more about SAFE here. Only about 150 individual Western pond turtles are currently cared for in AZA organizations. The Santa Barbara Zoo’s two individuals live in a pond across from the flamingos.
If you see a turtle walking away from the water, let it be. You may think the turtle is lost and belongs in a pond, but turtles frequently saunter away from their ponds to find another pond, lay their eggs, or look for a mate.