Peru: Thousands of tiny river turtles freed in Amazon

Image copyright Stanly Video Image caption A count in late 2015, the highest ever recorded, found a total of nearly a thousand turtles there

Nearly 1,500 baby river turtles have been released in the centre of Peru’s Amazon.

The effort comes after a surge in fishing caused numbers of turtles in the region to decline by at least 40%.

Piers Mahoney, of Stanly Video Wildlife Rescue, was among the group that helped supervise the six hour operation.

Image copyright Stanly Video Image caption Staff from Stanly Video cut open the thick shell of the ‘mermaid’ at the main location. She was born on the shores of the Amazon in Peru

“[It was] so empowering to see so many little turtles being released out of their mothers’ sea shells [and] release into the clear blue of this beautiful wilderness,” he said.

Image copyright Stanly Video Image caption Staff from Stanly Video prepare the turtles to be released into the wild.

Fishermen have for years taken sea turtles from rivers in the wet tropics for use in turtle soup.

They used a highly specialized type of dredger, which lays eggs. But the water and drainage systems are corrosive to eggs, and in some cases trap them inside the dredger.

Image copyright Stanly Video Image caption The process of releasing the turtles into the jungle is painstaking but worth it, say the rescuers

Fishermen cut off the nests or remove them from the river. According to the Peruvian government, illegal fishermen had entered an area of the river where on 17 February, 2003, a wooden vessel was found on the shore carrying 1155 turtles.

Over the following eight years, eight of the 1155 turtle were recovered by the Peruvian authorities, while 11 others were killed.

Fishmeal’s part in turtle trade

The latest turtles were rescued from the middle of a river near Cobapa and herded into boats, which set out at dawn.

The journey was followed by a group of Venezuelan activists who came to Peru to stage a protest against fishmeal – a common ingredient in turtle soup.

Image copyright Stanly Video Image caption The meat of turtles like Rotelella, a protected species, is sold for meat in supermarkets and bars of trade in Peru

As well as the mass release, a count on 11 July, 2017 also revealed the largest turtle population of any region in Peru, but with more than double the annual average – 730,000 turtles.

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