Sustainable Wildlife Management Project’s turtle conservation programmes are being expanded in an effort to create more sustainable policies in communities where turtle consumption is a vital part of culture and survival for residents.
The (SWM) project in Guyana focuses on coordinated community-driven initiatives that support food security and traditional livelihoods. These will contribute to maintaining healthy fish and terrestrial wildlife populations.
SWM Country Coordinator Oswin David says consultations are currently ongoing to upscaling river turtle conservation activities.
“Initially we started with one community, which is Yupukari, then it expanded to Sand Creek and Rewa. Those are two different riverain communities. The communities see the interest in conserving turtles because local persons still depend on turtle meat and turtle eggs. That’s their part of culture and traditional ways.”
Guyana held the first River Turtle Management Plan consultations with Toshao’s from across North, Central and South Rupununi earlier this month.
Initial plans discussed were; when to head out to which communities to begin village level consultations, who is interested, who should be involved and what the first phase should look like.
The leaders decided from this consultation that this turtle management plan should focus on all six species of river turtles found in the Rupununi.
These are the Twist-necked turtle, Toadheaded turtle, Painted wood river turtle, Yellow-spotted river turtle, South American river turtle and Mata Mata.
South Rupununi Conservation Society (SRCS) and Caiman House also did presentations on how their turtle conservation activities are being implemented with successes and lessons learnt.
In South Rupununi, wildlife use guidelines have been defined in 7 pilot communities and wildlife use surveys have been carried out in 140 households.
SWM’s trademark turtle festival was held just last month.
David says this activity is vital in ensuring the younger generation is educated in the value of conservation. Every year, over 300 children from 14 communities participate in the environmental education curriculum developed by the SWM Programme.
“This year we had a major festival after the covid period in Yupukari. This programme, this festival, showcases, promotes or raises awareness of the importance of conservation. We target youths but adults are also involved in that festival because it’s fun and educational for the students and they learn more about why it’s very important to conserve not only turtle but also other species that are vulnerable.”
Over 150 students attended the festival from 7 communities and together they released over 600 turtles into the Rupununi River.
8 booths were set up for the youth including face painting, games, a Rupununi Livestock Producers Association (RLPA) booth and much more. The students finished off with a display of poems, skits and songs before the big release. About 700 turtles left over were later released by rangers.