Western Pond Turtle

Conservation Status

IUCN: Vulnerable ESA: Under Review


State of the Species

The Western pond turtle is found from the lowlands of Puget Sound in Washington State, southward through Western Oregon and California into the northwestern Baja California peninsula. Turtles are also found in western Nevada, but it is uncertain as to whether this populations is native. Populations in the majority of this range are declining (see above) or unknown, though populations in Washington State have increased due to concerted conservation efforts.

AZA Member Activity

  • Between 2011 and 2015, eleven AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums reported taking part in a variety of field conservation projects benefitting Western pond turtles. Over those five years, the AZA community invested over $672,000 in Western pond turtle conservation.
  • Over those five years alone, the AZA community invested over $600,000 in Western pond turtle conservation.
  • Projects were primarily associated with recovery efforts and often involved collaboration with academic institutions and agencies such as Sonoma State University in California, US Geological Survey, and the California, Oregon and Washington State Departments of Fish & Wildlife. This is not an exhaustive list of the organizations, but these efforts represent the significant ties that AZA-accredited institutions have with Western pond turtle-focused conservation organizations.

Despite the tremendous efforts AZA members and partners have committed toward saving the Western pond turtle, the species is still declining at an alarming rate and there is a clear need to approach conservation differently.  AZA SAFE provides a new approach for collaborative conservation.  Using a One Plan approach,  conservationists working to save a species work together to identify and prioritize the conservation needs of a species and then develops a 3-year Conservation Action Plan (CAP).  Each AZA SAFE Conservation Action Plan includes specific projects, goals, and actions that will address the needs of each species.

Learn more about the individual projects that comprise the AZA SAFE Western Pond Turtle Conservation Action Plan.

AZA SAFE Actions to Date

  • In March 2015, AZA SAFE staff organized a range-wide Western pond turtle conservation planning workshop at the Oakland Zoo that brought in Western pond turtle conservation experts from Puget Sound in Washington State to Baja California, Mexico. This included representatives from state and federal agencies, AZA-accredited zoos, conservation NGOs, and academic institutions. The proceedings included presentations about the current status of the species and conservation efforts underway, followed by focused efforts to assess key threats and develop strategies to address them. This served as an important and unprecedented opportunity for information sharing among this diverse group of stakeholders, resulting in increased collaboration range-wide, and culminated in development of a preliminary conservation plan for the Western pond turtle.
  • A Call for Participation was issued, informing AZA-Accredited Institutions and Members about ways to participate in implementation of SAFE conservation projects focused on the Western pond turtle. (See associated webinar.) 

AZA Animal Program Leaders 

Chelonian TAG Chair: Michael Ogle, Knoxville Zoological Gardens
Chelonian TAG Vice Chair: Barry Downer, Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden
SSP Coordinator: Jessie Bushell, San Francisco Zoo and Gardens
Studbook Keeper: Jessie Bushell, San Francisco Zoo and Gardens


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