Bon Voyage, Pondy
Our adorable western pond turtle has a new, amazing home!
California's only native freshwater turtle, the western pond turtle (Emys marmorata) is charismatic but often super shy, and they are protected species by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. They are threatened due to habitat loss, predation by animals like overfed raccoons, and competition from non-native turtles such as the not-so-shy red-eared slider. In 2013 "Pondy" was rescued by the California Turtle and Tortoise Club from a pet shop who held him illegally. We gladly took him in with the goal of becoming a tiny ambassador for the plight of his brethren in the wild.
He was a perfect addition to our Living Collections team at the time, helping us highlight our then-new Nature Lab, and particularly the exciting work of our Herpetologist Dr. Greg Pauly regarding the crisis of competition these animals face. But Pondy has always been a more shy turtle than the rest, and he never really seemed to enjoy the attention he would get while on display full-time. This was despite our best efforts to carefully help him acclimate to humans. I distinctly remember feeding him for the first few months by sneaking up to his tank unseen, and stealthily dropping chunks of sardines over the side! By the end, he happily took food direct from our feeding tongs.
I knew I could find this special guy a place where he could have a little more privacy than we could give him. Once we learned he could have a coveted place at the (truly incredible) Turtle Conservancy (TC) in Ojai, CA, we jumped at the chance to include him. Pondy will now live in his own, beautiful outdoor palace until a massive 20K gallon pond is built where he will participate, along with many other animals, in community science training for future science surveys in the area! So very aligned with NHM's goals!
Bonus: he will even be added to the AZA's Species Survival Plan (SSP) studbook. We think this particular turtle will appreciate his new role as "the new stud", and we sincerely hope he can contribute to the genetic lineage and the important conservation work by the TC and the AZA.
Bon Voyage, Pondy Dear!