A three-and-a-half year journey concludes with the San Antonio Zoo’s release of six rough-footed mud turtles. The zoo’s conservation team and Texas Parks and Wildlife have been working together to rehabilitate the endangered species. The turtles, who were originally discovered dwelling at a family’s ranch outside of Marfa, were successfully released back into their home pond in late October.
Native to Presidio County in the U.S. and Northern Mexico, spotting these turtles is extremely rare. When this group was found by Jennifer Smith, a professor at the University of New Mexico Alamogordo in 2018, the critters were suffering from parasites and skin infections, due to their pond’s poor water quality.
Overall, the species is threatened due to increasingly less water available along their native habitat and other changes.
“This project is a perfect example of successful and impactful collaborative conservation. It demonstrates how private landowners, academic researchers, government agencies, and zoos all working together, can secure a future for even the most obscure and imperiled wildlife species,” says Andy Gluesenkamp, Ph.D. Director for the zoo’s Center for Conservation & Research.
The Fuentez family, who discovered the turtles at the ranch, was crucial in the rehabilitation process. The pond where the turtles were originally discovered has also been restored and improved to officially welcome them back home.
“We are proud to be stewards of the land, to respect and conserve what has been here for hundreds of years before us and will continue to be well beyond our lifetime,” the Fuentez family shares. “We hope this lesson and legacy to give back to nature is something that our children and our grandchildren will adopt and continue at Los Alamos Ranch. We’ll always do our part to maintain these turtles and all other species of the Big Bend.”
Before being released back at Los Alamos Ranch, the turtles were evaluated to ensure they were in peak health. They were weighed, measured, and micro-chipped by the San Antonio Zoo’s veterinary team.
“I am very proud of our conservation team, and as a Texan, I am especially proud we were able to help save this group right here in our own state,” says Tim Morrow, President & CEO of San Antonio Zoo. “For San Antonio Zoo, this is a special call to action for us to step in and assist before these species become endangered.”
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