Locating "... the last remaining reproductively viable population of southwestern pond turtles" after the Bobcat Fire swept through a sizable area of the San Gabriel Mountains in September 2020?
A few intrepid biologists, with the backing of several major nature and conservation groups, recently did just that, all with the goal of saving the small reptiles and giving them a new if temporary home at San Diego Zoo Global.
The mission proved to be a success, with eight of the endangered turtles found over two weeks.
But the shell-sweet critters won't be have a permanent residency in San Diego. Rather, the hope is to return the turtles, which are rare around Southern California, to their wilderness habitat.
That will happen once biologists assess the situation, following the winter rains and any potential mudslides or debris flows.
If the area is secure, the turtles will head home.
"Our role as conservationists is to provide refuge and care for wildlife in trouble," said Kim Gray, curator of herpetology and ichthyology, San Diego Zoo Global. "We are happy to make a home for these pond turtles until their home in the mountains can be made safe for them and their offspring."
Learn more about these at-risk animals, critters that are among "... two recently recognized species that together comprise the only freshwater turtles native to California," and their story of survival now.