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In Time for Turtles

Turtles called "charapas" living along the river banks in the Amazon region of Ecuador are in danger of extinction. Two times per year, the turtles lay their eggs in shallow nests on the beaches and sandbars of the Tiputini River. The eggs are quickly collected and sold at bushmeat markets on the edge of the rainforest as a local delicacy.


In an effort to save the turtles, a program began between conservationists and the Waorani indigenous group living within the Yasuni National Park. Ecuador wildlife biologist Santiago Espinosa initiated the collaboration, and Wildlife Conservation Society biologist, Ruben Cueva, is supervising the effort to bring them back.


In November and December of 2008, 1000 eggs were gathered for a head start program by Roque Alvarado, a Waorani from the Timpoca community. He moved them to specially constructed nests in his back yard. 700 river turtles hatched at the end of February 2009!


The hatchlings are being tended in artificial ponds by Alvarado and his children, Renata, Orlando, and Annabelle. The little turtles will be released to the wild in December 2009.


Photo: © Julie Larsen Maher

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Taken on April 6, 2009