Biologists collect turtles in front of Phoenix Zoo

A trio of local biologists spent some time on the pond in front of the Phoenix Zoo in search of turtles.

Christina Jones, Arizona Game and Fish Department turtles project coordinator; Bradley Poynter, Phoenix Zoo curator of conservation and science; and Andy Reischmann of the Phoenix Herpetological Society collected turtles Friday, May 17 to Sunday, May 19.

Every year, it is estimated that hundreds of unwanted pet turtles are released into this Papago Park pond and other community lakes by their owners, according to a press release.

The first non-native species turtle trapping was at the Phoenix Zoo in 1999. Since then, nearly 1,000  individual turtles, representing 19 species, have been captured and nearly 580 have been removed.

All female non-native turtles were removed from the pond and placed with the Turtle and Tortoise Preservation Group to reduce population growth and keep from overcrowding.

This will help prevent non-native species from traveling to nearby waters where they could out-compete, spread disease to, or prey on native turtles and other native aquatic wildlife.

Non-native male and all other native turtle species found at the pond will be returned to the water to continue to provide zoo visitors the unique opportunity to view them from the bridge upon arrival.

Turtles will be trapped and measured, weighed, their sex determined, species verified, and marked for identification.

The event was in conjunction with World Turtle Day on May 23, and is the focus of an educator’s workshop, which provides professional development through Game and Fish Department’s Focus Wild education program. World Turtle Day aims to promote turtle conservation efforts.

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