UPDATE: After 72 hours of setting up traps, 117 total nonnative turtles were removed (85 males and 32 females) that spanned four different species: pond sliders, spiny softshell, Western painted turtle and Florida red-belly. Special thanks to the Arizona Game and Fish Department, the Phoenix Zoo’s Conservation Science team and the dozens of amazing volunteers for your assistance!

If you visit the Phoenix Zoo this weekend and see numerous people in boats floating throughout the Papago Park pond, don’t worry … they’re supposed to be there.

Every year, it is estimated that hundreds of unwanted pet turtles are released into the Papago Park pond at the front of the Zoo bytheir owners. From May 19 – 21, we are undergoing a routine turtle trapping to help control the population of these nonnative turtles. Managing nonnative and invasive species that have been illegally released is one way we can better protect our native Arizona wildlife.

The first nonnative species turtle trapping was held at the Zoo in 1999. Since then, nearly 1,000 individual turtles have been captured and removed.

All female nonnative turtles caught over the course of the weekend will be removed from the pond and placed with the Phoenix Herpetological Society to reduce population growth and keep the pond from becoming overcrowded. This will help prevent nonnative species from traveling to nearby waters where they could out-compete, spread disease to or prey on native turtles and other native aquatic wildlife.

All native turtle species and male nonnative turtle species found at the pond will be returned to the water to continue to provide Zoo visitors with the opportunity to see a variety of native and nonnative turtles. Turtles will be live-trapped using fish as bait and measured, weighed, sexed, species verified and marked for identification.

Volunteers will be on hand to provide information, answer questions and educate guests about responsible turtle and small-pet ownership.