Scientists Elated By Discovery of Giant Freshwater Turtle Hatchery; But Future Of World’s Largest Freshwater Turtle Very Much In Doubt

Tens of thousands of giant South American river turtles have hatched along the rivers bordering Brazil and Bolivia.

The nesting and hatching began in mid-December and is reaching its peak. Monitoring the situation is the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) a conservation organization based out of New York. The society leverages clout from the zoos and aquariums of New York City, which support about 4 million visitors a year.

Giant South American River Turtles (Podocnemus expansa) Photo

According to WCS:

“The giant South American river turtles have begun nesting on the border of Brasil and Bolivia. This is one of the most magnificent annual turtle nesting events in the world. It takes place in the river known as the Guaporé River in Brazil and as the Itenez in Bolivia. Our conservationists are on the ground working with partners to help protect the turtles and the eggs and doing research to ensure the protection of these turtles faor generations to come.”

They also said video taken showed tens of thousands of hatchlings congregatating on the river banks before dispersing into the river.

According to Britannica there are about 356 species of turtles worldwide. Turtles live on land and in fresh or salt water. Tortoises live exclusively on land and have some anatomical differences from turtles. Terrapin was a commonly used name for sea turtles, buts its usage has been largely restricted to the diamondback terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin).

According to the National Aquarium giant South American river turtles are among the largest freshwater turtles in the world. They rarely leave the water except to lay eggs. That habit has made them vulnerable to human hunting and their numbers have plummeted in some areas. The aquarium estimates that up to 48 million turtle eggs a year were taken before conservation efforts were imposed. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service considers them endangered.

Because females lay the eggs they are much larger than the males and can weigh up to 200 pounds. Their large size protects adults from most predators. Hatchlings are very vulnerable, however. Their diet includes vegetable matter insects and other invertebrates.

A giant Yangtze softshell turtle (Rafetus swinhoei) Photo by Gerald Kuchling

The world’s largest freshwater turtle is the critically endangered giant Yangtze softshell river turtle. A handful are known to exist. A male and female are housed in different zoos and there are unconfirmed sightings of wild individuals. the turtles fell victim to uses in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Hydroelectric development has also changed the habitat. It is hoped that since they rarely leave water and stay in the deep there may be more than believed.

The amazing icefish (family Channichthyidae) lack hemoglobin in their blood as an adaptation to Antarctic waters. A giant hatchery was recently discovered in the Weddell Sea.

Occasionally scientists make discoveries of abundant life, as has recently happened in the Antarctic.

Published by ursusrising

long time writer and editor living in Los Angeles

Leave a Reply