SEATTLE - A turtle species might not be around anymore if it weren't for the conservation efforts of Woodland Park Zoo.
This hatchling is one of the fortunate few born at the Woodland Park Zoo.
“They've been here for millions and millions of years. Long before people came to the area,” said Dr. Jenny Pramuk.
Dr. Jenny Pramuk and her staff plan to keep it that way. For 25 years now, the zoo's been giving the Puget Sound's only indigenous turtle a boost.
It starts at the zoo where keeper Bill McDowell tends to bins and buckets and barrels full of babies.
It is the longest running reintroduction program in the state. The Western Pond Turtle was on the brink of extinction in 1990, with only 150 left in the wild, not just because of predators.
“One of the biggest causes of decline was actually habitat destruction or alteration,” said Pramuk. “So if you look around Puget Sound, most of their habitat's been converted to agricultural use or housing. So that's their biggest threat.”
But under Bill's watch, they grow for about a year. When they're too big for a bullfrog to eat them, they get to go free.
Most of the turtles already living at the pond the rest are released at, came from the zoo. They'll be joined by these 47 more.
“This'll be their, their new home. And hopefully they can find a mate that they'll have turtle babies with. That's the goal,” said Pramuk.
Staff and volunteers get the thrill of a lifetime by essentially saving a life.
“You take a deep breath, pick up a turtle,” said Pramuk. “You gently release it into the water and watch 'em swim away.”
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