Sand Creek residents tackling depleting turtle species used for cooking

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With a revitalisation of the yellow-spotted river turtle project at Sand Creek Village, Region Nine (Upper Takatu- Upper Essequibo), residents can expect an increase in the reptilian species in the area.

This turtle species is being revitalised after decades of neglect through a conservation project being facilitated by the South Rupununi Conservation Society under the Sustainable Wildlife Management Programme.

Project coordinator, Neal Millar told the News Room that the project started after Sand Creek residents observed a significant decline of the turtle population there. Earlier this year some 1,100 turtles were safely hatched.

Project coordinator, Neal Millar

“For the next few years, we hope to continue the project [and] find a solution where we don’t have to rescue the eggs last minute, but we could find a way to rescue them early or move them to a different part of the river or move them back to the village,” Millar told the News Room.

He added, “From the 1,600 [eggs protected by the group] about 1,100 successfully hatched and survived.”

In March 2022, rangers from Sand Creek rescued over 1,000 turtle eggs from the Rupununi River before they were destroyed by flooding.

It is the group’s hope that the project will eventually rebuild the population of yellow-spotted river turtles in the Rupununi.

Millar said the turtles will be released in September for the second Turtle Festival in Rupununi.

The decline is reportedly due to the overconsumption of the turtles by persons and predators.

“Sand Creek village reached out to us the first year and asked us if we could help them to implement a conservation programme to help reverse the decline of the yellow-spotted river turtle… reason for this is primarily overconsumption by so many people would go into the river and harvest.

“We’ve also been protecting them from predators as well because not only humans but you also have species of lizard called a salamander here locally, and they will frequently go through the nest consuming as many eggs as possible,” Millar told the News Room.

Millar said that around Christmas the turtles are cooked in different ways and consumed by persons in the area.

He said their meat and eggs are delicacies for people. This constant hunt has caused the number of turtles to decrease.

As such, a meeting was held where persons were informed that the turtle nests would be monitored by local rangers at the beach.

Millar explained, “We didn’t want to go in straight away and tell people that you can’t eat turtles anymore and have a hard ban on it because the village will not respond well to that.”

“So what we decided on is that we would train local Rangers from Pine Creek residents from there who are interested in the project to monitor the beaches along the Rupununi where people normally go to collect the eggs.”

At the start of the project, the rangers didn’t consider flooding, which became a major issue.

“They found that the Rupununi river would start to rise and cover these nests and the nests don’t last very long when submerged under water,” the project coordinator said.

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