Turtle release boosts conservation in Peruvian Amazon

By Paula Bayarte

Iquitos, Peru, Nov 8 (EFE).- In the middle of one of the main squares in Iquitos, a port city in the Peruvian Amazon, hundreds of taricaya turtle eggs are about to hatch and start the journey to their natural habitat.

During the 18th century, chroniclers described with awe how large the populations of these turtles in the Amazonian rivers were. By the 20th century, however, they had nearly become extinct due to their exploitation and human consumption.

In an effort to protect them, the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve in the last few years has launched conservation projects that are now being replicated in other parts of the Amazon basin.

The annual festival of liberation, organized by AJE Group, was celebrated for the fourth time with the release of roughly 4,000 taricaya turtles to promote environmental education and sustainable tourism.

The people in San José de Lupuna witnessed how the thousands of hatchlings went downhill, on a rush, guided by children of the community, into the Nanay River, a tributary of the Amazon River.

Since 2019, AJE Group has been buying turtle eggs from neighboring villages that hatch in small artificial beaches that are installed in different parts of Iquitos so that the population can watch and learn about the species.

Each turtle lays 20 to 35 eggs, the incubation process lasts approximately 70 days and, as soon as they hatch in the terrariums, they are moved to small pools for a few weeks.

“We try not to keep them in captivity for a long time so that they do not lose their natural instincts,” María Elena Lau, the councilwoman of the Maynas municipality, tells Efe.

The last stage of the project is the release of the hatchlings, like the one at San José de Lupuna.

Lau underlines that public policies are needed to promote species conservation. She says that until the 19th century, turtle eggs were collected to extract the oil and use it as fuel, which, added to the high local consumption, caused a decline in the population of the species.

She explains that with this project they do not intend to limit the consumption of taricayas or their eggs, which are part of the diet of the local population, but to do it from a sustainable approach. EFE pbc/aef/ks

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