PORTLAND — The Oregon Zoo this summer continued an ongoing effort to help the recovery of western pond turtles in the Columbia River Gorge.
After rearing a group of turtles in Portland for much of the past year, the zoo released 11 of them in the Gorge last month. It planned to release six more today, the last turtles to be returned to the wild this year.
The turtle reintroduction is a collaborative effort by the Oregon Zoo in Portland, Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and other partners. The Western Pond Turtle Recovery Project started in 1991, with the Oregon Zoo participating since 1998.
The program has been aided by regional youth organizations and other volunteers in recent years, including many from Clark County.
Officials have called the program a success, helping a species that was on the verge of completely dying out in Washington two decades ago. From fewer than 100 western pond turtles in the state then, researchers estimate the population has grown to more than 1,600 now.