Turtles have become poster children for addressing ocean pollution. Many coastal restaurants have decided to use paper straws in lieu of plastic straws (which can severely hurt sea turtles), and a lot of imagery and marketing around the movement highlights turtles suffering.
So with all that said, great news came out of the San Diego Zoo, when the zoo welcomed 41 hatchlings from the Indian narrow-headed softshell turtle species, a species of turtle native to South Asia.
The zoo is the first accredited organization in the US to successfully hatch and raise the species.
“This is a thrilling moment for us at the San Diego Zoo, and an incredible step forward in the conservation of this species,” said Kim Gray, curator of herpetology and ichthyology at the San Diego Zoo, in a statement.
“We have been focused on caring for these turtles for a very long time, and part of that care is to gain a greater understanding of the species’ natural history. With the knowledge we gain here at the Zoo, we can better assist our partners in India to help this essential species thrive in their native habitat.”
The zoo had three of the Indian narrow-headed softshell turtles for 20 years in hopes that they would someday reproduce, as the species is endangered in the wild. The international pet trade, human harvesting for food, environmental pollution, and destruction of sand-bar habitats has significantly reduced their population. Scientists are now trying to determine just how many are left in the wild.
San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, which operates the zoo, has worked with the Turtle Survival Alliance, particularly the organization’s presence in India, to help host workshops that educate Indian communities about the interconnectedness between the health of native wetlands and rivers, and the well-being of local human populations.
Inspired to Act?
DONATE: If you want to support the San Diego Zoo and its work with the turtles you can always donate.
SUPPORT: Support your local accredited zoos by just going and visiting. A lot of zoos around the US host wildlife restoration projects, and the price of admission helps keep those projects running.