Endangered turtles to be released in the Gorge

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VANCOUVER, Wash. (AP) -- A group of western pond turtles raised at the Oregon Zoo will be released into the Columbia River Gorge next week.

The Columbian newspaper (http://bit.ly/nPsUr3 ) reports the release is part a recovery plan, started in 1991 by Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. The Oregon Zoo joined in 2000.

Nine turtles will return to the wild next week, 11 months after they were brought to the Oregon Zoo to be raised in safety.

Wildlife officials say allowing them to grow before putting them back into the wild improves their chances of survival. Keeping the turtles in simulated summer conditions helps them put on three years of growth in less than a year. Zoo officials believe that improves their survival rate to 95 percent..

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Information from: The Columbian, http://www.columbian.com