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Vulnerable species

Still hunted

Yellow-spotted river turtle: hunted for meat and eggs, its populations are declining

CREATIVE COMMONSYellow-spotted river turtle: hunted for meat and eggs, its populations are decliningCREATIVE COMMONS

Thirty years or more after the initial warnings were issued, populations of the yellow-spotted river turtle Podocnemis unifilis, a common species in the Amazonia region, remain at risk of decline.  And the reason hasn’t changed: voracious consumption of their meat and eggs by riverside communities. From September to November 2011, Débora dos Santos Arraes at the Federal University of Amapá (Unifap) and Marcos Tavares Dias at Embrapa Amapá tracked the fates of 324 eggs laid in 180 nests at two common reproduction sites for the turtle: along the banks of the Falsino River in an environmental reserve area, and in the urban area of the city of Porto Grande in the Araguari River basin, state of Amapá (Acta Amazonica, September 2014). The researchers found that only 20% of the nests remained intact and 25% of the eggs hatched after an average incubation period of 63 days. Egg loss was observed in most (80%) of the nests, due mainly (75%) to their being taken by inhabitants of nearby communities, both in the protected reserve and in the urban area. Predation by wild animals was the cause of egg loss in 2.7% of the studied nests, and 1.7% of all eggs were lost due to seasonal variations in the river’s water levels. Among other things, the study concluded that the short distance between the nests and nearby urban or riverside communities is the main determining factor in egg loss, and consequently, in the decline of the turtle population. The authors warn that “strategic action is urgently necessary to conserve and maintain the natural stocks of this turtle, which is relatively vulnerable in this region.”