Western Pond Turtle
At the Detroit Zoo
The Detroit Zoo is home to a single pair of western pond turtles, also known as the Pacific pond turtle. The male was confiscated in 2015 from a California resident who reportedly obtained it illegally. Authorities were alerted by a concerned citizen who saw a social media post made by the owner claiming he was going to cook and eat the turtle. The female came to the Detroit Zoo as potential breeding partners for the male to help bolster the population of this vulnerable species. The animal is part of the SAFE (saving animals from extinction) program through the AZA. The western pond turtles can be seen in their habitat at the Holden Reptile Conservation Center.
Western pond turtles range in coloring from brown to black to olive. The medium-sized turtles have dark heads and legs with faint yellowish marbling. Western pond turtles inhabit different types of wetland habitats including rivers, streams, lakes and ponds, as well as reservoirs in California, northwestern Nevada, Oregon, Washington and the southwest corner of British Columbia. They are the only native freshwater turtle on the west coast.
The population of western pond turtles in Washington was once near extinction, with approximately 150 animals remaining. However, concerted head-starting and reintroduction efforts have helped this population grow to 1,200 to 1,500 individuals. The Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) launched its Saving Animals From Extinction (SAFE) initiative in May 2015, with early efforts focusing on 10 species, including the western pond turtle.
The Western pond turtle is a part of a Species Survival Plan through the AZA.