Endangered turtles find new allies in Ecuador’s Amazon basin


In the markets of the Amazon basin of Ecuador, the eggs of the Charapas turtle fetch up to half a dollar each, a significant sum to the impoverished indigenous communties who live here. Only last year, 7,000 of the local delicacies traded hands in a single day, deeply threatening the survival of the endangered Charapas.

But this freshwater reptile, a crucial part of the ecosystem here, has found new allies. With financing from the MDG-F, five indigenous communities along the banks of the Napo and Tiputini rivers have launched an initiative to conserve the Charapas turtles by creating environments to encourage egg-laying and to protect newly-hatched turtles.

The programme, implemented by the NGO WCS Ecuador in collaboration with Ecuador’s Ministry of Environment and six UN agencies, is part of an effort to support the conservation and sustainable management of the Yasuní Biosphere Reserve, one of the most biodiverse regions of the world.

Members of the Kichwa and Waorani indigenous communities manage five artificial beaches where Charapas lay their eggs, and ten pools where hatchlings are raised until they are big enough to be released into the wild. To date, almost 2,000 baby Charapas have been returned to the river, some 600 earlier this spring.

Before they are released, the turtles’ shells are painted with identifying numbers so that they can be traced as they mature. Community members have proudly reported already seeing tagged turtles returning to protected beaches to lay their own eggs.

To ensure the programme’s continuity and the long-term conservation of the turtles, project leaders are involving local school-children in training and environmental education programmes on the management and conservation of the Charapas and their habitat.

The Yasuní Biosphere Reserve conservation project is one of MDG-F’s Environment and Climate Change programmes and part of the global effort to achieve Millennium Development Goal # 7, the ensuring of environmental sustainability.

Click here to see a video on the MDG-F-supported Joint UN Programme to protect Ecuador’s endangered Charapas turtles.

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