12th annual turtle festival: 271 turtles released into Rupununi River

Launching of the “Wildlife and People of the Rupununi” book

The Yupukari Village Council and Turtle Monitors in collaboration with the Caiman House Inc (CHI) over the weekend held their 12th annual turtle festival in Yupukari Village, Region Nine (Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo) in an effort to raise awareness of their community-driven turtle conservation work.
This initiative aims to increase the yellow-spotted river turtle populations and ensure its sustainable use through a community-led approach. Some of the activities conducted by the project include the monitoring of turtle nests (in-situ and ex-situ monitoring), rescuing turtle hatchlings from flooded beaches and carefully rearing them for a year prior to their release at the festival.
This year’s turtle festival was a success and saw a total of 271 turtles being released into the Rupununi River by the participants. These turtles had been rescued the previous year by the turtle rangers during monitoring exercises across eight beaches around Yupukari village along the Rupununi river.

Toshao of Yupukari village, Shamir Khan, highlighted the importance of this project in relation to the unpredictable weather. “The weather is not predictable now, two years ago we had eggs in the sandbank, and they were all flooded out – except for the ones that we rescued. So that’s how important this turtle monitoring is in Yupukari” he stated.
During the festivities on Saturday, multiple booths were set up, these booths offered attendees with a variety of activities such as an opening parade, turtle egg collection training, video screenings, information awareness, caiman education, educational quiz games, blindfold pin-the-sweets, turtle enclosure visit, wood carving and a visit to the Wabbani crafts building.
Meanwhile, the Sustainable Wildlife Management Programme (SWM) took the opportunity to launch a new book “Wildlife and People of the Rupununi”. This publication is a collection of engaging articles on the technical and scientific work completed by the SWM Programme in Guyana, namely Region 9, between 2018 and 2023.
The book consists of fifteen chapters grouped in four broad areas; the status of wildlife populations; local uses of wildlife; co-existence between humans and wildlife; and wildlife management and conservation initiatives in the Rupununi. The turtle conservation project in Yupukari began in 2011, when researcher Jeff Slocum got a few residents interested in turtle conservation, however the first festival was held 2013 under the theme ‘Nurturing Community Research to Protect our Environment’, the premiere turtle festival held in Yupukari, Rupununi, saw the release of 57 turtles to their native habitat after a year of “head starting”- a kind of re-introduction program. The festival has grown tremendously since and is now implemented as part of the Regional Turtle Conservation Management Plan. community-led approach.