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The Yellow-spotted river turtle (Podocnemis unifilis) is a species of freshwater turtle found in the Amazon and Orinoco basins of South America and is categorised on the IUCN Red List as Vulnerable. In the Rupununi, Guyana, the species is threatened by numerous issues including wildlife predation, overconsumption by humans and flooding. The consequence of this array of hazards has been the severe decline in the local species population over the past few decades. In response to these threats, community-based initiatives led by two local grassroots NGOs in collaboration with Indigenous communities has sought to reverse the population decline of the Yellow-spotted river turtle through a series of conservation actions. A combination of ex-situ and in-situ methods have been implemented including head starting, translocation, nest monitoring and environmental education. The integration of these approaches has resulted in a noticeable increase in the local population of the Yellow-spotted river turtle although population numbers are still distant from those in previous decades. Evaluation of the projects has revealed that climate change induced flooding will require the continuation of the combined ex-situ and in-situ methods for the long-term future to prevent any further decrease in the turtle population. The projects have also highlighted the importance of environmental education on influencing behaviour change which is a key component to the future sustainable harvesting of the turtle population. The model created by these two projects can be upscaled to conserve a wider area of river in Guyana and to reverse the decline of other threatened populations including the South American river turtle (Podocnemis expansa) and the Mata mata (Chelus fimbriata). Communities, NGOs and governments can also replicate aspects of the projects to conserve locally threatened freshwater turtle species in their respective regions.

Keywords:

Community-based Conservation, Translocation, Head Starting, Nest Monitoring, Environmental Education

Rudolph Roberts, Derek David, Neal Millar

Presentation within symposium:

S-38 Empowerment of IPLCs and Biocultural approaches to wildlife management and conservation: examples from Guyana

Community led turtle conservation along the Rupununi River, Guyana

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