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OKC Zoo Houses Young Alligator Snapping Turtles To Help In Conservation Effort

Oklahoma’s alligator snapping turtle population has significantly declined in recent decades, but the Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden is contributing to the conservation of the vulnerable species. 

The OKC Zoo received 11 young alligator snapping turtles through a partnership with the Tishomingo National Fish Hatchery, which has a program to raise, rear and reintroduce the vulnerable species into their native habitat. 

Before being released back into the wild, Seamus Ehrhard, the OKC Zoo’s assistant curator of herpetology, says the turtles will stay at the zoo until they are about four-years-old. 

“Alligator snapping turtles really have no natural predators as an adult, but when they're younger and they’re smaller, they have predators such as mammals, birds and other turtles,” he said. “So during the very sensitive time when they’re very young, if you take the time to grow them up and feed them and make sure they're very healthy before we release them, the odds are they have a higher chance of having a better lifespan and surviving in the wild.” 

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation lists alligator snapping turtles as a “species of greatest conservation need.” Ehrhard says eastern Oklahoma rivers used to be heavily populated by the turtles, but human exploitation and habitat alteration led to a large decrease in population. 

The OKC Zoo will continue to receive young alligator snapping turtles from the Tishomingo National Fish Hatchery. 

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