The President of Bolivia, Evo Morales assisted in the release of one hundred thousand turtles in the River Itenez. This river is situated at the south of the Bolivian Amazon. The turtle release was made for the improvement of the species’ number and to help the environment’s preservation. From 2007, the Versalles community alongside park guards and the Bolivian WWF monitored these River turtles and their nesting sites on the Iténez river. This research was an initiative which was part of a community involvement for the protection of natural resources and the need to conserve and sustain endangered species.
For the determination of the conservation that was needed for these turtles, the technical staff responsible for monitoring the turtles devised a diagnostic research. The research’s aim was to find the extent the use of natural resources by the local communities is capable of being an identifiable threat to river-turtle populations. To do that, the work undertaken included the gathering of information by the community members for the utilisation of them as an input for any possible future developments of Turtle-management plans and for the surveillance of any activities whatsoever during the periods of nesting and egg-laying.
The hatched turtles were all released at the same time in order to contribute to the re-population of the species in the region, which the monitoring indicated that it was gravely endangered. This endangered species is officially called the Giant South American turtle. They were classified in the lower risk/conservation dependent list of the Conservation of Nature Union in 2003. According to this list, the species is not necessarily threatened with extinction, but they can be critically endangered if there is not close examination and control of the animal’s population. This turtle is a close relative to the also vulnerable Yellow-headed Sideneck turtle.
There are many causes for the turtles’ population reduction. One of these lies to indiscriminate hunting in several areas of the Bolivian riverside. This is made mainly for commercial purposes, as their oil is beneficial for cosmetic purposes and their eggs are produced in markets for excessive consumption. In addition, the area’s logging and clearing in the surrounding rivers and the damming of rivers are also severe causes of the turtles’ reduction. This is because this clearing causes to the river’s water cycle a drastic alteration and as a result, it creates confusion to the turtles’ natural seasonal cycle of nesting, as it is timed according to the alternation of floods and low flows of the river. Further to these reasons, the premature rise of the river flow can possibly result in flooding the nesting sites, which causes the hatching success to be reduced.
This wonderful species, alongside with its relative, are crucial for the maintenance of the biodiversity within their habitats. The reason for that lies to their role of dispersing fruits and seeds, making them the third species in the area which fulfils this role, including monkeys and birds.
Video by: ODN
The species is able to live for a century. Their preservation then is crucial for both their protection and the protection of nature in the area.