Colombia with its 28 species is a highly strategic location for their conservation. In fact, at a global level, this country is ranked sixth in diversity of these reptiles, three of which are endemic: Mesoclemmys dahli, Kinosternon dunni and Podocnemis lewyana. Colombia also has the highest number of chelonian families: seven in total.
Unfortunately, there is another facet to these important figures: the threats from human mediated factors faced by these animals. In the list we must highlight meat and egg consumption as well as destruction and alteration of the ecosystems where they live. This pattern follows the global trend, as approximately 50% of all tortoises and freshwater turtles that inhabit our planet endure similar situations.
Due to all the above, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) – Colombia program – and Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) joined efforts in year 2012, with the interest of im plementing a turtle conservation program based on a model successfully tested in Myanmar and China. One of the primary objectives of this program is to ensure the inclusion of the protection of these animals in high level discussions that also address subjects related with protected areas and the prioritization of wildlife species for conservation.
Another purpose of this initiative is to expand human potential for work with tortoises and freshwater turtles in Colombia, through workshops, scientific field research and the introduction of captive management techniques. Several of these actions are oriented towards the conservation of some species previously identified by the National Program of Conservation of Marine and Continental Turtles of the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development as well as by the Strategic Plan for the Conservation of Colombian Tortoises and Freshwater Turtles.
This alliance between WCS and TSA also aims to impulse and develop long-term monitoring programs for endemic tortoise and freshwater turtle species also considered “rare” (for example, Kinosternon dunni, Dunn’ Mud Turtle). Priority is also given to critically endangered species, such as the Arrau or South American River Turtle (Podocnemis expansa), the biggest South American river turtle, the Magdalena River Turtle (Podocnemis lewyana), included in the list of the world’s 25 most imperiled tortoise and freshwater turtle species and Dahl’s toad-headed turtle (Mesoclemmys dahli).