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Zoo News Blog

Good News: We Love Turtles and are Protecting Them in the Wild

The Houston Zoo has a wide diversity of turtles from around the world, and we’re working hard to ensure turtles are protected in the wild. To do that, we rely on a few of our skilled professionals, who happen to each have a soft spot for turtles.

Chris Bednarski is a zookeeper in our Herpetology Department – this means he cares for a wide array of reptiles (like turtles!) and amphibians. Chris has worked at the Houston Zoo since 2007 and has a deep love of turtles. Chris has traveled the world on the lookout for frogs, snakes, turtles, toads – you name it. Not only does Chris take care of the numerous turtles at the Houston Zoo, providing them daily care, he also works hard to protect turtles in the wild. Above is a picture of Chris identifying the diversity of amphibians in a remote region of India. Throughout his work in India, 1,500 acres of land have been secured to protect numerous reptile and amphibian species.

Another staff member who has a soft spot for turtles is Dr. Joe Flanagan, Senior Veterinarian at the Houston Zoo. Dr. Joe has worked at the Zoo since 1982 and is a specialist when it comes to turtles and tortoises. Perhaps some of the species closest to his heart include the Galapagos Tortoise, the green sea turtle, and the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle. Dr. Joe has worked tirelessly to protect Galapagos tortoises on the Galapagos Islands, providing endless veterinarian advice to ensure these giants continue on for generations to come. Here in Texas, Dr. Joe provides veterinary care to all wild sea turtles on the Upper Texas Coast. So, if any sea turtles wash up on our local beaches with injuries or sickness, or are accidentally caught by someone fishing, Dr. Joe provides the care needed to get these animals back out into the wild. Dr. Joe and his team at the Vet Clinic provide care to nearly 100 wild sea turtles every year at the Houston Zoo!

Finally, our Houston Zoo extended staff in Indonesia, Joko Gunturo, also loves turtles – specifically, the Painted Terrapin, a type of turtle found in southeast Asia, but can also be found in our orangutan moat at the Zoo! Joko founded the Satucita Foundation in 2009 to promote the conservation of freshwater turtles, like the Painted Terrapin. Joko leads a team in Indonesia to observe, monitor, and protect turtles. Joko and his team conduct annual nesting patrols to secure turtle eggs from poaching. Then, they give the eggs a headstart by protecting them until they hatch from the egg. Additionally, the team works to protect the habitat for these turtles and educates the local community on how to live alongside the Painted Terrapin. Thanks to these efforts, 2,356 painted terrapin hatchlings and juveniles have been released safely into rivers and estuaries in Indonesia.

By supporting our Emergency Zoo Fund, you help ensure that we fulfill our mission of connecting communities with animals and inspiring action to save wildlife, even during these challenging times.