Entitled Turtles

Now in our 4th year of drought here in California, there are many things, people and animals affected by it. Brown lawns are the least of our worries (except for those sticklers who keep a lush, green carpet despite water regulations and warnings). In our neighborhood is a small pond; it’s known affectionately by “those who maintain it” as a storm water retention basin. Whatever you call it, for 20 years, it’s been a home to resident geese, mallard ducks, Canada geese who visit, egrets—even white pelicans and an occasional Great Blue Heron. There are many other birds as well and then, below the surface and on the banks, live the Koi Carp and the turtles. They too depend on this water source to live.

A friendly discussion with our neighbor yesterday was the inspiration for this blog—Entitled Turtles. Our neighbor, a very intelligent gentleman, retired architect and avid birder, was listening to us tell the story of the “lake.” Here is a person who has taken the water shortage and regulations very seriously by taking out his lovely lawn and landscaping with native plants and mostly rocks. “A turtle is as entitled as I am,” he said standing there on the sidewalk, scraped and bruised shins from weeks of down-on-his-knees working to re-landscape his lawn with rocks and plants needing little if no water. At 84 years of age! Yes, the entitled turtle I thought. Most mornings, you can see the little reptiles lining the bank, their heads periscopes above the receding muddy water. Will there be more water soon? They wonder. How will we go to another pond or water source if this one dries up? Does anyone CARE ABOUT US?

And where do these “pond turtles” come from anyway? An article by Joe Rodriguez written last year in the San Jose Mercury News titled: California Drought May Doom Abandoned Pet Turtles talked about the drought, ponds drying up and—yes, turtles who will die. It all comes down to responsibility—on all levels. The article reads:

“You’ll find these guys in lakes and ponds and streams everywhere,” said Gilbert Castro, president of the Silicon Valley chapter of the California Turtle and Tortoise Club. “There isn’t a city or county in California that doesn’t have this problem. Once they outgrow the cute phase, they are frequently abandoned.”

Mike Will, a city parks manager, said pet owners have been abandoning exotic, non-native pets like pond slider turtles, gold fish and Japanese koi in city ponds for decades. He said he once found a piranha — a native Amazon fish known for attacking and devouring large animals in packs—at Kelley Park.

Still, Will said, the city is speaking with water district and state officials on alternatives to letting the non-native turtles fend for themselves when the last pond (at Touchstone?) goes dry, including a possible rescue and adoption.

Namwong said she would approve of a rescue and said she has volunteered to design new a sign for the park that would say, “No Turtle Dumping!”

The creatures who live in these ponds, whether natural ponds, man-made or storm retention basins depend on us. If we cannot provide them a habitat in which to live, surely we can muster the manpower to capture and relocate them.

So, we rally together for a solution. How to raise the level of the pond ever-so-slightly. The Sacramento River flows past, just a mile away, water rushing by–plenty of water it would seem. Couldn’t a little be spared for our little pond? We don’t need to fill it, we just need enough to keep the ducks swimming, baby ducks paddling along behind mamma, and turtles sunning themselves on the muddy bank, still able to plop back into the water when need be. We CAN make a difference. They are ALL entitled. When did man get so high and mighty that he started to feel more entitled than a snowy white egret or a stately Great Blue Heron—or a little Red-eared slider or Western Pond turtle? We pray for rain. I imagine raindrops pelting the surface of the pond, ducks quacking happily and turtles swimming in deeper, cleaner water.



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