HomeLifeArrau turtle has a life option in Venezuela

Arrau turtle has a life option in Venezuela

This year, the national conservation program reached the historic milestone of 1.000.000 baby turtles released.

An initiative that arose from a group of scientists in the 70s and that, nineteen years later, became a national public policy, is now the Continental Turtle Conservation Program, which seeks to preserve the life of these marine reptiles in endangered and that, recently, reached the historical milestone of 1.000.000 arrau and terecay turtles released, of which more than 80% corresponds to two and a half decades of work by the current Government.

The plan that began in 1989 in the spaces of the Arrau Wildlife Refuge and Turtle Protective Zone, Santa María del Orinoco, located between the Apure and Bolívar states, had a considerable expansion in 2005, so it covered other entities of the country and some species, such as the terecay. This occurred during the mandate of the then President of the Republic, Hugo Chávez.

However, the beaches of the initial camp continue to be the main nesting center from where the Ministry of Ecosocialism (Minec) collects the turtle eggs to later transfer them to one of the various zoo hatcheries that are currently active in the country, such as El Chávez patrol car, located in the Camaguán municipality of Guárico state.

“Of the 1.000.000 turtles of the historic milestone, 800.000 have been released in the last 25 years, because the program had a boost in 2005 with Commander Chávez, with the expansion and strengthening of the Santa María camp,” declared the minister. Josué Lorca in an interview for Últimas Noticias.

From the facilities of the Generalísimo Francisco de Miranda Park, located in the Sucre municipality of Miranda state, the Minec authority explained the challenges that the project has faced, as well as the process it has gone through and the achievements it has obtained. in more than two decades being led by the governments of Chávez and the current head of state, Nicolás Maduro, through the environment cabinet.

Arrau and terecay.

The life of the arrau tortoise, known in the field of science as Podocnemis expansa, and the terecay, scientifically called Podocnemis unifilis, has been threatened for years by various factors, among which humans are the main one. , since they usually hunt them for their meat, skin, shell or eggs.
Lorca explained that in the national territory both freshwater reptiles have been overexploited and overconsumed by the indigenous populations and, above all, by the communities of the states of Bolívar, Apure, as well as others that live in the Orinoco River and its tributaries.

He commented that Minec has been combating this danger with environmental education within the aboriginal villages that are involved in the zoobreeding process, among them, the Mapoyo people of the middle Orinoco. “That makes the animal look different; “They already understand the danger,” he said. Likewise, from the entity's camps they exchange food with the indigenous people for baby turtles or eggs.

Another situation that threatens continental turtles is wildlife trafficking. There are groups that are after the eggs or small turtles to market them, and these species are often sold as pets to other Latin American countries and even to the United States and some in Europe.

“This is something that we have been working on with the Bolivarian National Armed Forces, strengthening all the checkpoint routes that may exist within the states of Amazonas, Bolívar and Apure, fundamentally, because they are the areas where there is the greatest amount of spawning. of turtles and, therefore, of newborn hatchlings,” he stated.

Climate change also adds to the series of events that can cause the extinction of these continental species. This environmental element has been increasing over the years.

In this regard, the Ecosocialism portfolio authority commented that, due to changing climate phenomena, in recent seasons it has not been possible to obtain a similar average in the number of hatchlings. He specified that sometimes up to 25.000 eggs have been collected, while other times they only collect 30.000.

The difference in the length of the rainy season to the dry season means that fewer spaces are created for nesting and, in turn, prevents the turtle from going out to carry out the process. So, when the La Niña phenomenon is present in the country, which generates downpours for several months, these marine reptiles practically do not come out to release their eggs.

Preservation

More than 100 Minec workers, to whom volunteers continue to join, make the Continental Turtle Conservation Program possible to increase the survival capacity through a series of efforts that involve the recovery of its population.
The initial phase of the work occurs between the months of December, January and February, when the water level of the Orinoco River drops and large beaches are created around it, since this event is conducive for marine reptiles to come out and take advantage sand deposits and leave their eggs in them.
Lorca indicated that the team of specialists that his office maintains on site mark the spaces where the cells are stored and use two formulas to begin conservation.

The first is based on leaving the nest as the turtle created it, marking it and patrolling it. While the second involves translocation, that is, using latex gloves, the eggs are removed and placed in a tube in the same position in which they were placed in the sand and then taken to a beach in front of the zoo. and maintain constant vigilance.

Between 50 and 70 days after spawning, the hatchlings begin to hatch and from that moment on the breeding process begins for a year. In the first weeks after their birth they usually receive extreme care, because their umbilical cord is still open and they require medication to ensure that they do not develop any type of fungus in the healing process.

As they grow, the space in which they are found progressively enlarges. In addition, their water is changed every three days. “We have a well to avoid the issue of sedimentation, so that it does not arrive so dirty or with so much sediment, and many tests are being carried out to measure its growth,” he explained.

As for food, in the first instance they are given the same concentrates that the cachamas consume. The minister explained that the process is similar to that used with broiler hens: “At first they are given starter feed and then they are changed to rearing feed, so that they can grow and get stronger,” he said.

At the time of their birth, the size of these animals reaches three centimeters in diameter, and the optimal measurement to be able to release them is 15 cm. “It is important to highlight that, although this turtle is typical of the Orinoco basin, releases have also been made in rivers in the state of Portuguesa and Barinas, in previous years,” he said.
Support. As with the Fanb officials and towns near the Orinoco River, the program has help from private companies.

The minister assured that the private farms San Antonio Abad and Inversiones Alazán joined the process of conservation of marine animals.

“We are also including the Government of the Apure state, with the El Cedral herd, to begin breeding, not only Orinoco caimans, but also the arrau turtle,” he reported. It is expected that this management will be materialized next year.
He added that like the two companies, other institutions also support the project with food contributions. “It is a community that is adding up,” he stated.

Challenges and goals.

The Ministry of Ecosocialism, in addition to adding spaces for the breeding of arrau and terecay in the El Cedral herd, is also evaluating moving populations to the El Frío herd, in the Muñoz de Apure municipality as part of the expansion of the program.

Lorca explained that they have three camps within the Santos Luzardo national park, in the Apureña region, and their challenge is to add more. The indigenous communities, in the vicinity of the enclosure, are helping in the collection of baby turtles to take them to the cantonments and from there to the zoo hatcheries. “More wills are joining,” he exclaimed.

He pointed out that the program also has the challenge of beginning to do genetic work with the turtles, since one of the weaknesses they have is the decrease in the number of males.

“Normally, the history of the arrau turtle, which has been done, is that more females are born than males,” he said. In this regard, he pointed out that it is presumed to be due to a genetic situation. “As we are always collecting from the same place, from the same beach, there may be some type of inbreeding and this is affecting the production or fertility of the eggs,” he indicated.

The situation will warrant crossings with arrau species that are in other specific places of the Orinoco River such as the lower part of Amazonas and areas of Delta Amacuro.
It is expected that in the coming months the process will begin to understand the causes of egg fertility in recent years. Several universities and turtle specialists in the country will be convened for this research.

Regarding its goals, Minec is raising 27.000 baby turtles that will be released during 2025. Of the total, 18.000 are under the care of El Patrullero de Chávez.

The minister expressed the need for Venezuelans to learn about continental turtles, mainly the arrau which, although it can be found in other countries, is typical of the Orinoco basin.

“It is very important that this species that fell into danger of extinction, a product of human beings, we ourselves give an example of how to recover it,” Lorca urged.

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