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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Duck Pond turtles baffle officials, charm students

PPD head: Humans do more damage to pond than the turtles

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By Victoria Lobato / New Mexico Daily Lobo

Turtles on parade at the Duck Pond on Sunday. It is unsure how or when the turtles first arrived as the University did not place them there.

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Shelled critters have invaded the Duck Pond and questions remain as to where they came from.

Turtles have arrived in the Duck Pond to stay, said Mary Vosevich, director of UNM’s Physical Plant Department, which is in charge of maintenance of the pond.

But Vosevich said her department is not sure when the turtles arrived because the University did not put them there.

“The animals come and go freely,” she said. “The turtles showed up and reproduced.”

The turtles might have come to the pond after a significant loss of their natural habitats across the state, Vosevich said.

Vosevich said turtles do nothing to harm the ecosystem of the pond, and Physical Plant does not plan to relocate them. Turtles help the ecosystem’s flux and flow naturally, she said.

The turtles live in the pond alongside koi fish and a flock of ducks.

Vosevich said people are the ones who hurt the ecosystem of the pond.

“People put things into the pond — laptops, chairs, keys, golf carts, bread to feed the ducks, even people sometimes,” Vosevich said.

To maintain the ecosystem of the pond, Physical Plant uses fountains to aerate the water and improve its quality, Vosevich said.  She said it costs the University $36,000 every “few years” to drain and clean the Duck Pond and to relocate the animals while the pond is cleaned.  

Vosevich said people should not use the pond excessively and should respect creatures in the pond to help the University maintain the area. She said her department has been improving the area for students.

“We have recently upgraded the lighting and the paving to improve the Duck Pond, so that people enjoy the environment. It is there for everyone to enjoy,” Vosevich said.

Manuel Sandoval, a UNM student, said the turtles in the pond make the area more attractive.

“Everyone likes seeing turtles in the pond,” he said.  
UNM student Janaya Buehre agreed.

“I like seeing the turtles in the pond,” she said. “Yeah, turtles are cool.”   

It is important to preserve the pond and its wildlife for many generations to appreciate, Vosevich said. She said she encourages the campus community to respect turtles and other animals in the pond because it is a large part of what humans can do to help the pond’s ecosystem to maintain its natural state.  

“People enjoy the environment, but are not as kind as would be good,” she said.