Biologists capture unwanted pet turtles released into Papago Park pond

PHOENIX (FOX 10) - Arizona Game and Fish and the Phoenix Zoo have been trapping turtles since 1999, but this year there is something different -- technology.

The green murky water of the Papago Park pond inside the Phoenix Zoo is home to dozens of turtles that aren't supposed to be there, according to curator of conservation, Brad Poynter.

"The issue is if you release a non-native animal, something like a red ear slider, they will out compete a native species that are in the area," he said.

Since the non-native species trapping program started, nearly 1,000 individual turtles, representing 19 species, have been captured, just like this painted turtle.

"You can see there's a notch here and a notch up here, we've got one more down here," Christina Jones said.

Jones is the turtle project coordinator with Arizona Game and Fish. She says notches help track turtles that have been caught and re-released, but last October the department attached transmitters to 20 individual turtles -- 10 males and 10 females -- so they can see if these guys actually do leave the grounds.

"They're moving from here into some ponds that are on the western side of the zoo and back into the main lake moving into children's pond area," she said.

In addition to preserving the native species, trapping also prevents other turtles from entering larger bodies of water.

"We're trying to make sure that these guys don't go out and hop into Tempe Town Lake and just keep spreading," Jones said.

Trapping will continue through Sunday at the Phoenix Zoo.