Human Interest

Turtle hatcheries provide a lifeline to indigenous women in Peru’s Amazon

By Carla Samon Ros

Datem del Marañón, Peru, Sep 14 (EFE).- When Balbina Sundi Akumbari’s husband left her, she found an unlikely ally in the form of the yellow-spotted Amazon river turtle.

Thanks to Balbina, this aquatic reptile is also providing opportunities for other members of the Kandozi community in the Peruvian Amazon, where an entrenched patriarchal system can marginalize women, especially the unmarried, divorcees, orphans and widows.

She is breaking the mould with a turtle hatchery program that she launched in 2004, initially as a volunteer to conserve the vulnerable species.

Over time it grew into an eco-business, providing a living to her and 20 women from the community.

“The project is necessary for widows, for orphans… If the taricayas (as the turtles are known locally) die out, then what will these women do for work if they don’t know how to fish?” Balbina, 50, told Efe.

She speaks from experience. Not being able to have children is a sign of “illness” in the Kandozi community, where the reproductive role of women is regarded as central to the continuation of family lines, social psychologist César Renfigo said.

“That’s why the men abandon them (…) it’s very rare for them to get back together again. They have to leave the community. Within it, they are tarnished,” he told Efe.

Balbina responded with her Asociación de Mujeres Charapi foundation, which, with help from the Peruvian Trust Fund for National Parks and Protected Areas (Profonanpe), was given permission to manage the extraction of turtle eggs and the repopulation of the species.

The women at the association find the eggs on the edge of lake Rimachi. From there, the eggs are brought to 20 artificial beaches built in the village, where they are incubated before they hatch 70 days later.

Around half of the hatchlings are sold to commercial buyers in the city of Iquitos, where they are exported, predominantly to Asian markets. The other half are returned to the water to regenerate the local population.

Maintaining a balance between the commercial exploitation and conservation of the turtle is crucial.

The yellow-spotted Amazon river turtle is one of the largest in the region and is prized for its meat. EFE


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