Bolivian president Evo Morales recently lent a hand to conservationists attempting to protect the country’s biodiversity, by helping to release over 100,000 baby turtles into the Itenez River, which sits on the border between Bolivia and Brazil.
The hatchlings were all released at the same time in an effort to repopulate the region with several endangered species of turtle. Among these is the giant South American turtle (Podocnemis expansa), which is the continent’s largest river turtle, with a shell – or carapace – that can grow to around a meter (3.3 feet) in length.
The species has been known to live for up to a century, although numbers have been dwindling in the region as the turtles and their eggs are hunted for food, while oil extracted from their bodies is also used for cosmetic purposes.
According to the Bolivian Red Book of Vertebrate Fauna, released by the country’s Ministry for the Environment, this turtle currently holds endangered status.
Among the other species included in the release was the yellow-spotted river turtle (Podocnemis unifilis), which is currently classified as vulnerable, meaning it faces a lower risk of extinction than the giant South American turtle.
A statement released by the Bolivian government (in Spanish) explained that not only are these turtles an important part of the country’s natural heritage, but they also play a key role in maintaining ecosystems by heping reforest flooded areas.
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