On Wednesday, May 23, we are celebrating World Turtle Day. The Sonoran desert tortoise and the Mojave desert tortoise are the two native species of tortoise in Arizona.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department works to protect native turtles. Every year, hundreds of unwanted pet turtles are released into the Papago Park pond at the front of the zoo by their owners.

AZGFD manages wildlife by working in the pond outside the zoo’s entrance to rescue these turtles. They also teach about responsible pet turtle ownership.

"All female nonnative turtles [are] removed from the pond and placed with the Turtle and Tortoise Preservation Group – reducing population growth and preventing nonnative species from traveling to nearby waters where they could spread disease to prey on native turtles and other native aquatic wildlife," a Game and Fish press release read.

You can help AZGFD’s turtle conservation efforts by making a donation at www.azwildlifehero.com.

The department receives zero Arizona general fund tax dollars, so it is reliant on donations.

Visit the AZGFD website to learn how to take care of a desert tortoise or fill out the Desert Tortoise Adoption Application.