Countless of them were massacred over centuries, and their eggs pilfered by the hundreds of millions. Today, the Arrau turtle is a rare species conservation success story in the Brazilian Amazon — but one that could be derailed by a wide range of threats. In 2020, 120,000 Arrau turtle hatchlings (Podocnemis expansa) swam into the waters of the Araguaia River, marking a steady increase from 40,000 in 2017, 76,000 in 2018, and 96,000 in 2019. There are 18 different species of chelonians, the order of turtles and tortoises, in the Amazon, from aquatic to semiaquatic to land-dwelling species. Experts say there are at least five more still being described. Brazil’s Tocantins state is home to 11 of these species, the most populous of which are the Arrau turtle, the yellow-spotted Amazon river turtle (Podocnemis unifilis), and the yellow- and red-footed tortoises (Chelonoidis denticulatus and C. carbonarius). Because it’s the largest of these species (its shell can measure more than a meter, or 3 feet, across), the Arrau turtle is the one most people living in the region are familiar with. It was also historically one of the most sought out by hunters for its meat and fat, which was used for lamp oil. Historians tell of Arrau turtles being massacred in huge numbers in past centuries. Between 1700 and 1903, an estimated 214 million of their eggs were shipped to Europe as food. The species is an easy target for capture as it lays its eggs on beaches, leaving both…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer

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