ENVIRONMENT
11/01/2016 03:30 pm ET Updated Nov 02, 2016

500,000 Baby Turtles Will Be Released To Help Save Vulnerable Species

Armed guards reportedly protect the animals' nesting sites.

Conservationists have a reason to shell-abrate.

On Saturday, environmental authorities and community caretakers in Peru released almost 17,000 newborn yellow-spotted Amazon River turtles into the wild. The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the animals as vulnerable on its Red List of Threatened Species.

This was the first in a series of three releases Peruvian authorities have planned, CNN reported. By mid-November, they hope to release more than 500,000 of the turtles, known locally as “taricaya,” into the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, a protected area in northeastern Peru’s Amazon River basin.

Adult taricaya lay their eggs on riverbanks in the area, where they are exposed to predators and poaching. To ensure that the vulnerable eggs are protected, community members and employees from Peruvian government agencies, including the National Service of Protected Natural Areas, remove and care for them until they hatch

Arvildo Uraco, president of the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve’s management committee, praised the “honest and sustainable work that has required an effort from communities and management groups.”

The river turtles were frequently imported and sold as pets during the 1960s, Ohio’s Akron Zoo explains on its website. The Yekuana Indians and some other indigenous groups have also used the turtles and their eggs as a source of food, according to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo.

Armed guards protect the turtles’ 12 main nesting sites from poachers, the National Zoo says.

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