HomeSAFE: The Western Pond Turtle
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SAFE: The Western Pond Turtle

Categories: Animals, Conservation, SAFE, Veterinary Exam, Zoo Partners


The western pond turtle is an important species for The Sacramento Zoo and our partners at the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine. This California native species remains a conservation concern due to competition with invasive species like red-eared sliders, habitat loss, and lesions on their shells (“Ulcerative Shell Disease”) that is often associated with a recently discovered fungus (Emydomyces testavoran). Dr. Louden Wright, a second-year zoological medicine resident at UC Davis wondered if a common anti-fungal medication called voriconazole might be helpful in treating this fungus. Through a grant from the AZA SAFE program and Stonyfield Farms plus the Phil and Karen Drayer Wildlife Health Center Fellowship Award, the zoo’s UC Davis veterinary team received funding and investigated this important question.

To begin this project, healthy adult western pond turtles housed at the zoo were given the medication, and the level of the medication in their blood was measured over time. This was done to determine if the drug level would be appropriate to potentially treat an infection caused by the fungus. The team also monitored the turtles for any adverse reactions to the medication. Finally, samples of Emydomyces testavorans were sent to a specialized microbiology lab to test the fungus’s sensitivity to the medication.

The results of this project will allow veterinarians to determine an appropriate treatment regimen for western pond turtles using this medication.The UC Davis veterinary team and the Sacramento Zoo hope that this will provide information to help with future conservation efforts for the western pond turtle. Thank you to the Phil and Karen Drayer Wildlife Health Center Fellowship Award, Stonyfield Farms and the AZA SAFE Program for the generous grants that made this research possible.

The Sacramento Zoo is home to one of the largest populations of western pond turtles housed within a zoo. The zoo is also an active participant in the AZA Species Survival Plan® (SSP) for them. The zoo is also a part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums SAFE(Saving Animals From Extinction) program; partnering with the entire AZA community to focus conservation science, wildlife expertise and visitors in saving species such as the western pond turtle, in the wild.