Commonly known as river turtle or Magdalena river turtle, Podocnemis lewyana is one of the planet’s 25 most imperiled freshwater turtles. This species is endemic to Colombia, as it only occurs in the Magdalena and Sinú Rivers.
Swamps, canals, flooded areas and rivers are its home. It is mainly herbivorous and frugivorous, although occasionally it is also carnivorous. Even though sandy beaches are its favorite nesting places, it also nests in different types of terrains near the edge of certain riverbeds (Páez et al. 2012)
The inhabitants of Cotocá Arriba, rural district belonging to the city of Lorica in the department of Córdoba, are developing the project “Sinú Turtles”. The main objective of this initiative is to protect and increase the population of Podocnemis lewyana in said riverbed.
There, the turtles deposit their eggs on the beaches, but due to the artificial alteration of the level of the Sinú River waters, the risk of nest flooding increases. Therefore, year after year, community members monitor the beaches, protect the clutches and – if necessary – extract eggs to take them to an artificial incubator.
With this, Cotocá Arriba provides a better chance of birth for a big number of hatchlings that are then released into the Sinú River. Additionally, the inhabitants of this rural district track the progress of the Podocnemis lewyana population, obtaining relevant information that will be useful in the future for its conservation.
This communal work is supported by WCS - Colombia program -, TSA (Turtle Survival Alliance), Fundación Mario Santo Domingo and Disney Conservation Fund.