Guyana: Guyana is especially known for its different turtle species and four out of the seven sea turtle species can be found on the shores of the country. It included Hawksbill, Green, Olive Riley and the magnificent Leatherback.
READ HERE: Some fun facts about Turtles in Guyana:
Mata Mata turtle:
Mata mata turtle is a terrible swimmer. They spend 99% of their time in the water and prefer to walk slowly across the bottom of the river, pond or stream.
The Mata mata open season is from May 1st – August 31st and the closed season is from January 1st – April 30th and September 1st – December 31st.
Mata mata turtle facts:
- Scientific name ¬– Chelus fimbriata
- [this is derived from the latin words “tortoise” (chelys) and “fringed” (fimbriatus)]
- Life expectancy – 15-35 years
- They are a freshwater species of turtle.
- They cannot retreat into their shells – they are “side-necked turtles”.
- They are carnivorous and eat other fish, insects and frogs.
- They feed using a method called “suction feeding” where their mouths become a vacuum and they quickly suck prey in.
- They cannot chew their food!
- They can weigh up to 40 pounds.
- Females are always smaller than males.
- They are found in South America only
- They grow up to 45 cm long! Their head and neck is extremely long and accounts for much of their length!
- Whilst most turtles bask in the sun, Mata mata turtles don’t! They spend 99% of their time in the water.
- Their semi-horned snouts are used as a snorkel to breathe whilst their bodies are completely submerged.
- They have a lot of texture to their bodies. They have skin flaps and shell ridges; they have barbels and tubercles.
- They lay 12-28 eggs at a time.
- Incubation in sunny sandy places lasts approximately 200 days before hatching.
- They don’t really have any predators due to being so difficult to find! Additionally they have thick skin and shells.
- They are extremely difficult to breed in captivity.
- In captivity they will only eat live prey! They are not interested in pre-killed food.
- They are loners and don’t socialize with others unless it’s mating season.
Hunting and eating Turtles is illegal in Guyana, and the government has been putting a lot of effort into protecting the highly endangered turtles.
THE LEATHERBACK SEA TURTLE IS ONE OF THE MANY PROTECTED TURTLES IN GUYANA- SOME FUN FACTS:
- Leatherback sea turtles are the biggest turtles on Earth.
- Unlike other species of sea turtles, which have hard shells, the leatherback’s shell is leathery; it feels almost rubbery.
- According to Scientists, these huge reptiles lived 100 million years ago, during the dinosaur age but their future remains uncertain amidst the numerous threats.
- Only female Leatherbacks leave the ocean, they breathe air at the surface, but can stay underwater for up to 35 minutes at a time.
For the past nine weeks, 10 SRCS rangers from Sand Creek Village have been monitoring turtle nests on 12 beaches along the Rupununi River. The rangers protect the nests from human disturbance, predators and from flooding. The fluctuating level of the river often means that the rangers have to move the nests to higher ground to prevent them from being destroyed.
The aim of their work is to ensure that as many hatchlings survive as possible to help maintain a healthy population of river turtles in Guyana.
The Sustainable Wildlife Management – Programme Guyana are supporting the urtle project. Since January, the team of rangers from Sand Creek Village have been monitoring turtle nests on beaches along the Rupununi River. The aim of this is to protect the turtle eggs from human disturbance, predators and flooding.
For the past two years, early rainy seasons resulted in the rangers moving the nests to Sand Creek to avoid them being completely destroyed. However, this year, the rangers hope to be able to protect the nests until they hatch.
A giant leatherback turtle nesting on shell beach, this is one of four species of turtles that visit Guyana’s shell beach to nest every year. It’s the nesting sites of four species of marine turtles, Giant Leatherback, Olive Ridley, Hawksbill and the Green Turtle. and thousands of Scarlet Ibis. local communities of Almond Beach and Gwennie Beach are involved in the Shell beach conservation programme.
Sand Creek made history yesterday by holding it’s inaugural turtle festival. The turtles that were released had been rescued by the SRCS turtle rangers when all the beaches in the Rupununi were flooded due to an early rainy season.
The festival had lots of games and activities that focused on the importance of not overharvesting the turtle population to ensure that communities in the Rupununi have a sustainable food source and also to maintain wildlife diversity.
Dereck has been involved with SRCS since 2005 when we first attempted to protect the Yellow-spotted River Turtle in Sand Creek. Now Dereck leads the team of dedicated turtle rangers who are working to conserve the turtles in Sand Creek.
Like in 2005, the Rupununi River flooded before the turtles were able to hatch. The team is therefore caring for more than a thousand turtles that they rescued with Dereck individually looking after 400! This involves Dereck picking up all 400 and putting them in buckets every morning to wash their tank and refill it with water – it’s a lot of work.
In March, 2021, the SRCS rangers from Sand Creek rescued over 1000 turtle eggs from the Rupununi River before they were destroyed by flooding. Now that the turtles have hatched, our rangers are looking after them. This means changing their water on a daily basis and feeding them. For our senior ranger Dereck, this means taking out hundreds of turtles every day to clean their tank.
Once the turtles have grown slightly bigger, they will be released at the second annual Sand Creek Turtle Festival in September.
Anglina Byron, developed a deep-seated passion for journalism. Anglina is recognized for her tenacity, strength, and unwavering commitment to delivering honest and reliable news across the Caribbean. She covers general affairs of the region.