Detroit Zoo Animal Spotlight: Pacific pond turtle

- The Detroit Zoo's Executive Director Ron Kagan joins us live on The Nine from the Holden Reptile Conservation Center to tell us more about the zoo's Pacific pond turtle.

This turtle was rescued last spring and has found sanctuary at the Detroit Zoo. It was confiscated from a California resident who obtained it illegally and then posted on social media that he was planning to cook and eat it.

Knowing that the species was critically endangered, a woman who spotted the post offered to buy the turtle and authorities were notified. The zoo couldn't be more grateful that she reported this incident and that this turtle now has a safe new home.

It's also known as the western pond turtle, and it is the only freshwater turtle on the west coast, and can potentially live up to 50 years old. It's a shy animal and will dive into the water at the first sign of danger.

The Pacific pond turtle was once near extinction in Washington with only 150 turtles remaining, but concerted head-starting and reintroduction efforts have helped the population grow to 1,200-1,500.

This animal was one of 10 species identified last year by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums as part of the SAFE initiative, which stands for Saving Animals From Extinction. This initiative is a collaborative effort among the 230-accredited zoos and aquariums that comprise the AZA to pool our resources and focus conservation efforts on these 10 species that are facing the greatest threats in the wild.

In addition to the western pond turtle, the other species are African penguins, Asian elephants, black rhinoceroses, cheetahs, gorillas, sea turtles, vaquitas (a species of small dolphin), sharks and rays and whooping cranes.

The SAFE initiative will expand beyond the initial 10 each year - more than 100 species have been identified as facing critical threats and in need of a collaborative conservation effort.

The Zoo is open 362 days a year and winter is a great time to see animals both indoors and out. Many animals are active in the cold weather, including the gray wolves, wolverines, Japanese macaques, tigers, camels, polar bears, arctic foxes and red pandas. The Zoo also has many indoor areas to explore, including the Otter Habitat, Free-Flight Aviary, Butterfly Garden, Holden Reptile Conservation Center, National Amphibian Conservation Center, Great Apes of Harambee and Penguinarium.

For information on upcoming events at The Zoo, visit Wild Winter Weekends will be February 6-7, and Love Gone Wild is on February 14.

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