Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Drought Weakens Endangered Turtles Leaving Helmet Encrustations On Their Heads

The turtles of Elizabeth Lake have become dehydrated, emaciated, and stressed by the extended drought in California. The endangered turtle pictured here has a cement-like mineral coating resembling a helmet now on its head resulting from the accumulation and encrusting of alkaline and other minerals. The increased salinity of the water resulted from the drought which severely lowered the water level in the lake. 

Endangered turtle with a cement-like mineral coating on its head

The worst drought in the last 100 years has now compromised the lake’s ecosystem. Elizabeth Lake which is about twenty-three (23) feet deep when full and is now more than half dry, contains one of the largest populations of native pond turtles still in Southern California.

Lake Elizabeth
Lake Elizabeth's
compromised ecosystem

Biologists from the UCLA La Kretz Center for California Conservation Science rescued nearly 30 Southwestern Pond Turtles and brought them to UCLA to begin rehabilitation. These turtles now reside in large, fresh water pools on the roof of the Botany building.

Brad Shaffer, director of the UCLA La Kretz Center, 
finds a turtle at Elizabeth Lake.

A similar plan for rehabilitation is taking place at the Turtle Conservancy in Ojai in collaboration with UCLA. It is believed that the turtles captured represent all of the important genetic diversity of the population which will be enough to restart this species in the event that all the other turtles do not survive.

Turtle Pens on top of the Botany Building

The intent is to release the turtles as soon as they are healthy back into Elizabeth Lake after the winter rains which hopefully will refill the lake and return its ecological system. 

Have you ever rescued a turtle?


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