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Giant Turtles Booming in Brazil

The giant South American river turtle is one of the largest freshwater turtles in the world and can weigh up to 200 pounds. They play a vital role in river ecosystems cycling nutrients, scavenging, and contributing to soil dynamics.

It’s been a big year for turtles, with lockdowns allowing them to hatch on beaches that are, for once, free from humans. This week, however, a remarkable hatching event took place on the Purus River in Brazil as a reported 90,000 giant South American river turtles were born. A turtle tsunami!

Wildlife Conservation Society staff monitor the delicate nests for months leading up to the yearly hatching and this year, they were delighted to see record-breaking births. Due to the fact that only 1 percent of turtle hatchlings survive to see adulthood, it is common for sea turtles to lay eggs in large volumes, but 90,000 is a very rare occurrence.

“Mass birth is an important survival strategy for turtle hatchlings. It is also a rare event, since this event occurs in few places in the world and with few other species. Other species that uses the same strategy are certain sea turtles, namely olive and green turtles,” Camila Ferrara, aquatic turtle specialist for WCS Brazil, told Treehugger.

The huge population boom is good news for conservation efforts, but also for the survival rates of the little hatchlings. Larger birth rates allow the turtles to travel in a protected pack back to the river’s edge. In other words, there is strength in numbers.

“Giant South American river turtles provide important environmental services as a part of the food web, contributing to energy flow, nutrient cycling, scavenging, and soil dynamics,” Ferrara says.

For wildlife, on land and in the water, lockdowns for the human race have been a wonderful opportunity to flourish. And many have. Every cloud has a silver lining!

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