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Bolivia | PA rangers rally local people to save endangered river turtles from egg poachers

BENI DEPARTMENT, Bolivia — The sound of hundreds of excited children drowns out the gentle hum of nature. Those closest to the shoreline hold in their hands, some for the first time, the tiny babies of a species of river turtles known locally as peta de río. On the morning of Dec. 9, 2017, the children, together with their parents, other adults, authorities and park rangers, participated in the crowning activity of the Quelonio Project: the release of 2,500 yellow-spotted Amazon river turtles (Podocnemis unifilis) into the Maniqui River, in San Borja in Bolivia’s Beni department.

The baby turtles, who had never felt water before, instinctively knew what to do. They began to swim, starting a journey to unknown paths in the Bolivian Amazon. Although their future is uncertain, these particular turtles are very lucky: many of their counterparts weren’t even able to hatch. They died as embryos, at the hands of traffickers, who manage to extract and illegally sell thousands of river turtle eggs despite the strict control of authorities. This is the main threat to the species.


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