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Bay Area Zoos to Release Western Pond Turtles At Restored Historic Site

A historic cultural attraction and restored lake in San Francisco will serve as a release site for Western pond turtles, which have been the focus of a 6 year collaboration between Sonoma State University and two major zoological parks in the Bay Area—the Oakland Zoo and the San Francisco Zoo. The turtles will be fit with transmitters to aid in telemetry studies for the purposes of tracking and monitoring individual turtles. The data will contribute to larger demographic studies on the turtles.

The significance of this latest release effort is the location of Mountain Lake, a restored ‘living laboratory’ in metropolitan San Francisco.  The green space south of the Presidio campus, which is home to the city’s historic military installation, may be one of the finest examples of restored wilderness inside any metropolitan area in the nation.

According to Jessie Bushell, San Francisco Zoo Director of Conservation and Western pond turtle Species Survival Plan (SSP) Coordinator, “The Western pond turtle’s presence is a strong indicator of our ecosystem’s health.”

I first reported on this headstart program for National Geographic in 2012 when 44 juvenile turtles were released at a local site (See Article).  The turtles were collected as eggs or hatchlings and reared in captivity until they were large enough to elude predators the size of small mouth bass and American bullfrogs.  “The hope is to establish a resident population as the top predators in the lake’s food chain,” said Dr. Geist the lead researcher from Sonoma State University. “It’s up to us to try to bring them back. I can’t save all the turtles, but I can help with this species in our own back yard.”

Margaret Rousser, Zoological Manager at Oakland Zoo said, “The restoration of the lake is such an important project and we are thrilled that the lake will once again have our native Western pond turtles living in it.”

About Oakland Zoo

The Bay Area’s award-winning Oakland Zoo is home to more than 660 native and exotic animals. The Zoo offers many educational programs and kid’s activities perfect for science field trips, family day trips and exciting birthday parties. Oakland Zoo is dedicated to wildlife conservation onsite and worldwide. 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.

About San Francisco Zoo

Established in 1929, the San Francisco Zoo & Gardens connect people to wildlife, inspire care for nature and advance conservation action. An urban oasis, the Zoo & Gardens are home to over 1,000 exotic, endangered and rescued animals representing more than 250 species as well as seven distinct gardens full of native and unusual plants. Located at the edge of the Pacific Ocean where the Great Highway meets Sloat Boulevard, the Zoo is open 365 days a year from 10 am to 5 pm and is accessible by San Francisco Muni “L” Taraval line.

About Sonoma State University

Founded in 1961 as a teacher education center for the North Bay, Sonoma State University is now a liberal arts and sciences university dedicated to providing high-quality undergraduate education and professional graduate programs to its 9,400 students. The SSU educational experience fosters intellectual, cognitive, social and personal growth, and the faculty and staff of Sonoma State provide close mentoring relationships and an education that promotes ethical exploration, civic engagement, social responsibility, and global awareness combined with a solid foundation in an academic discipline. Dr. Nick Geist’s current research at SSU focuses on fundamental aspects of Western pond turtle biology, partnering with the Oakland and San Francisco zoos since 2008.

Dr. Jordan Schaul
Dr. Jordan Schaul is an American zoologist, conservationist, journalist and animal trainer from Shaker Heights, Ohio.- Wikipedia

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