We were greeted with sunny skies yesterday morning for this summer's western pond turtle release. Twelve endangered turtles, headstarted for a year at the zoo, were taken to a protected pond site in the Lakewood area for the next step in their life cycle: life in the wild. A full contingent of helpers, including zoo staff and volunteers, 7-year-old Aimee Kessler and project donor Maryanne Tagney Jones, received the honor of gently putting the little turtles, weighing around 2 ounces each, into the waters of their new home. State biologists Michelle Tirhi and Tammy Schmidt checked over the turtles, ensuring that they were correctly marked (small notches are made in their shells for future identification, as well as tiny numbered tags). Michelle notes that the project has had a 95% rate of success in raising turtles since 1996.
But we'll let the photos speak for the day. The zoo has proudly worked on this project for nearly two decades, increasing the wild population of these turtles from as few as 100 to more than 1,400 today.