SAN FRANCISCO—Western Pond Turtle field biologists released 24 turtles into the newly renovated Mountain Lake in the Inner Richmond District, on Saturday, September 12. The turtles were released after a Science Saturday talk at the Mountain Lake Outdoor Classroom.

The Western Pond Turtles have slowly been facing extinction due to habitat loss, non-native creditors and crowding by non-native turtle species. The release of the Western Pond Turtles was part of a seven year effort to restore the species by Sonoma State University biologists along with Oakland and San Francisco zoos that began in 2008.

According to Oakland Zoo officials, Mountain Lake was considered to be the most suitable habitat for the turtles to be released, due to its recent restoration efforts. Mountain Lake is currently one of San Francisco’s three remaining natural lakes. 

The turtles were secured with special transmitters by zookeepers before being transported to Sonoma State field biologists and have been released into the pond. The transmitters will allow biologists to conduct research as the turtles become settled into their homes. 

Zoo officials stated that the smallest turtles hatched between two to three years ago and were raised at the Oakland and San Francisco Zoo until they reached healthy sizes. Zoo officials mentioned that the turtles will be able to fend off predators such as bullfrogs and largemouth bass, both creatures that can easily swallow small turtles. 

A major concern involving red-eared slider turtles have also been prevalent in raising Western Pond Turtles to their full-grown sizes. According to Nick Geist, Professor of Biology at Sonoma State University, the Western Pond Turtles will now have the capabilities to withstand the threats of predators, as well as winter climate environments, and compete with the more aggressive red-eared slider turtle species for food.  

According to Jessie Bushell, Director of Conservation and Western Pond Turtle Species Survival Plan at the San Francisco Zoo, “the Western Pond Turtle’s presence is a strong indicator of our ecosystem’s health.”