A Rescue of Rare Turtles Followed the Bobcat Fire

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San Diego Zoo Global
"A team of biologists—including members from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), U.S. Forest Service (USFS), University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Endemic Environmental Services Inc., Citrus College and San Diego Zoo Global—worked together over the last couple of weeks to find and rescue the last remaining reproductively viable population of southwestern pond turtles (Actinemys pallida) in the San Gabriel Mountains."
San Diego Zoo Global
"The area, which was devastated by the Bobcat Fire over the last two months, is at risk of mudslides and debris flows that could have an extremely negative impact on the aquatic habitat for the turtles."
San Diego Zoo Global
Removing the turtles from the threat of mudslides and errant debris was at the top of the biologists' minds as they sought and found a number of native pond turtles.
San Diego Zoo Global
"Seventeen of the 20 largest California wildfires have occurred over the past 20 years," said Rich Burg, environmental program manager, California Department of Fish and Wildlife. "Megafires like these have created devastating ecological conditions even after the fires have been extinguished. In this case, we have a situation where there is little or no vegetation left on the slopes, impacting terrestrial habitat. It is likely that there will be significant sediment flows into the West Fork of the San Gabriel River, which could fill in existing refugia pools and change water chemistry. This can negatively impact the pond turtle population."
San Diego Zoo Global
"We have become increasingly concerned over the status of our native pond turtles," said Ann Berkeley, U.S. Forest Service. "They are a small species with a great deal of charm, and their presence in our local creeks is important to maintaining the biodiversity in small waterways that are found throughout our Southern California mountains."
San Diego Zoo Global
Eight turtles will winter in San Diego. When they'll be returned to the wild remains a question mark for now.
San Diego Zoo Global
Want to know what the future holds for these important critters? Keep an eye on the San Diego Zoo Global social feeds for how the turtles are faring. And, most importantly, if and when they'll be able to return to their home in the San Gabriel Mountains.
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