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Community-based conservation offers hope for Amazon’s giant South American turtle

09 / 01 / 2019, Mongabaycom News

A giant South American turtle hatchling (P. expansa) on a community-protected beach deep in the Amazon. Image courtesy of Camila Ferrara. During the Brazilian Amazon’s July to November dry season, a small number of remote beaches along a 1,500-kilometer (930-mile) stretch of the Juruá River in Amazonas state exhibit a remarkable display of abundant fauna diversity, as female freshwater turtles emerge to lay their eggs in the sand. What is most striking about this particular federal Extractive Reserve (RESEX) of the Middle Juruá, however, is its contrast with other neighboring beaches along this Amazon tributary. “When you arrive at one of those few protected beaches, you come across thousands of birds. There are so many that the noise they emit is deafening. Also there are giant South American turtles (Podocnemis expansa), and their close relatives, tracajás (Podocnemis unifilis), and pitiús (Podocnemis sextuberculata), as well as green iguanas (Iguana iguana), and lizards, among other [species],” João Vitor Campos-Silva told Mongabay. He is a postdoctoral researcher at Universidade Federal de Alagoas (UFAL). “These areas are true islands of biodiversity, while other unprotected beaches are inhabited by few species. They are empty of life.” Another surprising fact: these beaches aren’t guarded by the government, or by international NGO staff; they’ve been protected for 40+ years by local riverine community members, paid only in food. A community turtle egg nest monitor, armed against gun-toting poachers, patrols a beach along the Juruá River in Amazonas state, Brazil. He receives a monthly food basket for his work throughout the dry season. Image…

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