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SELVA :: PROJECTS :: Amazon River Turtle :: Collaboration & SELVA's Role

Conserving the Critically Endangered Giant Amazon Turtle

How is SELVA helping turtles and indigenous communities?

SELVA is helping indigenous communities in Bolivia implement a community turtle research and conservation project in Noel Kempff Mercado National Park (PNNKM), a UNESCO World Heritage site in a subsistence-based region of the Amazon. The project's goal is to conserve rapidly declining giant Amazon river turtles and to research the threats they face. The species we work with are the yellow spotted Amazon river turtle ( Pococnemis unifilis ) and the giant South American river turtle ( Podocnemis expansa ), the largest freshwater turtle in the western hemisphere, which reaches one meter in length. Both these species were once abundant throughout the Amazon and Orinoco Basins, but recent recommendations by IUCN scientists recommend these species be listed as endangered (very high list of extinction in the wild) and critically endangered (extremely high risk of extinction in the wild) on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (http://www.iucnredlist.org) .

This project is unique in that it was initiated as a collaboration of local communities and the national park , because local people noticed that turtles are disappearing. In 2003, SELVA scientists were invited to participate as scientific advisors to the project. In 2005-2006, SELVA helped project managers research local turtle populations and their threats. We documented serious decline caused by local human activities, especially hunting of large female turtles.

SELVA is now helping local managers design a science-based, community-managed turtle conservation plan. The plan will include limits placed on turtle hunting, so that only indigenous people can exploit turtles for subsistence use, in a regulated manner that allows for turtle recovery. The plan will include scientific monitoring of turtle populations and exploration of alternatives to turtle meat. Our goal is to continue collaboration on this project in PNNKM and then to help expand its reach to other areas of South America

Project collaborators:
• Noel Kempff Mercado National Park (Bolivia)

• Indigenous communities of the Bajo Paraguá (Bolivia)
• Turtle Conservation Fund (IUCN)
• Servicio Nacional de Áreas Protegidas (SERNAP) (Bolivian National Park Service)
• Fulbright (USA)
• The Charles A. and Anne Morrow Lindbergh Foundation (USA)
• Odum School of Ecology, University of Georgia (USA)
• Fundación Noel Kempff Mercado (Bolivian NGO)


More about the critically endangered Giant Amazon River Turtle:

Why care about turtles?

How is saving turtles beneficial to people?

How can I help save turtles and support indigenous communities?


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