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Phoenix Zoo plans turtle-conservation efforts ahead of World Turtle Day

Phoenix Zoo plans turtle-conservation efforts ahead of World Turtle Day

Volunteers help trap pet turtles that have been abandoned in the lake in front of the Phoenix Zoo. Nick Oza/azcentral.com

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The Phoenix Zoo will begin routine management efforts this weekend to protect native turtles in the moat area near the zoo’s entrance.

Hundreds of turtles have been removed since the practice started in 1999. Many of the removed turtles were believed to be former pets that owners released into the wild.

The event starts Friday morning and lasts until Sunday afternoon.

All female non-native turtles will be removed, marked for identification and taken by the Phoenix Herpetological Society to reduce overcrowding and population growth in the area.

All male non-native turtles will be tagged for identification and returned to the water.

This event will help prevent non-native turtles from migrating to nearby bodies of water where they could spread disease or prey on native turtles and other native aquatic wildlife.

Traps will be set at 8 a.m. on Friday morning and checked at noon and 4 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It takes about two hours for the traps to be checked.

“We will have Arizona Game and Fish volunteers and zoo conservation volunteers all along the bridge who will be answering questions,” said Linda Hardwick, Phoeniz Zoo spokeswoman.

“There will be a setup at the entrance of the zoo’s main bridge with handouts, brochures and tanks with reptiles and turtles in them so (volunteers) can educate the public who are visiting the zoo,” she said.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department wants to use this event to give Phoenix Zoo visitors a chance to view wildlife management in action, and teach them about responsible small-pet ownership.

The weekend is held in conjunction with World Turtle Day on May 23. Both the event and World Turtle Day will be used to promote and educate the public on turtle-conservation efforts.