Baby turtles released in the Amazon by biologists and biologists’ organizations after conservation group wins landmark verdict against rubber companies
The world’s first release of thousands of turtles back into the rainforest in Peru’s Amayas region was celebrated on Sunday.
A conservation group in Peru says that as of 7 October more than 4,500 baby river turtles have been released back into the Amazon after a landmark verdict against rubber companies for their destruction of the turtles’ habitat.
“Today we have ensured that the future of this fragile group of turtles and the whole Amazon forest is preserved and protected for future generations,” Consolata Vidal, Peru’s national director of protected areas told reporters.
Alonso Popas, chief of Peru’s biological services service – which organized the event – said: “It is a big milestone for Peru.”
The baby turtles were released in the Amayas region by biologists and biologists’ organizations after receiving a major victory in October, when a Peruvian court ruled that rubber companies had polluted the area and infected turtles with sickenings and deformities.
Turtles have a long life span in Peru, though Popas said that adult turtles can die if they are exposed to diseases. The baby turtles, which also have a life span of several years, were introduced to the water by a biologist, called the golden seal, who was acquired through the courts.
About 10,000 turtles were released in a mass ceremony on Sunday morning, according to Luis Velazquez, a turtle biologist from the Popasonas Indigenous Association of Amazonas.
Sofia Chica, the executive director of Wildlife Direct and the founder of In Defense of Animals, praised the conservationist involved in the release.
“For two years this biologist, Donaldo Marono, has been going all over Peru giving pro bono advice to Ecoparapar, a non-profit conservationist organization,” Chica told the Guardian. “The court ordered so many fishing boats to stop from drifting in, so he gave them all the turtles for them to find and save.
A turtle, flanked by the legal team involved in bringing about the ruling, as well as Ecoparapar’s vice-president, Alvaro Berlanga Amaya, left. Photograph: Courtesy of Ecoloparaparap
“This biologist is keeping alive about 60 tons of food in the trash. His animal husbandry skills are amazing.”
Chica, who has been working for years on protecting the turtles, said that the litigation was prompted by students at Lima’s Bogota University, led by Amelia Vaca, who conducted a project in Aysen fishing village, which contained dunes where turtles lived.
Vaca’s project analysed satellite data showing that dunes filled with turtle eggs and nests and cattle waste had been exposed to environmental contamination, and determined that large amounts of chemical waste, pesticides and bacteria had been polluting the area.
The scientists determined that some of the affected turtle species were either extinct or were reproducing at only one to two percent of the rate in what would be considered normal.
In May, Ecoparapar presented the case to a Peruvian judge, which awarded the restoration of the turtle habitats and the liquidated properties of the rubber companies as part of an environmental damage restoration project that included $17m (12m soles) in damages.
The protected area in northern Perú where the turtle were released. Photograph: Consolata Vidal/Thinkstock
The case was originally expected to last two weeks, but has taken five months and almost 19,000 documents, according to Sergio Lugo, one of the scientists involved in the case. Lugo was awarded a fat new car and a boat as part of the victory.
“Peru is very important for our turtles,” the 39-year-old biologist told the Guardian, adding that the turtle population had been thriving in the country and in the Amazon rainforest of Brazil, where the two oceans converge.
In March, the turtles were released from a commercial fishing vessel off the coast of Ecuador, causing shivers to go through the Taiwanese coastguard.
Earlier in the year, some turtle experts issued a warning to fish hunters, particularly those in the Peruvian Amazon, to stop wiping out juvenile turtles.