Go forth and prosper, little snappers.
On Tuesday, as part of a binational conservation project, an estimated one million Amazon River turtles were released into a river close to the border between Bolivia and Brazil, Reuters reported. A crowd gathered to watch the adorable, if not awe-inspiring, moment when the bitty babes shuffle through the sand before scrambling their way to the water.
Far less cute is the reason behind the mass release. Their population has recently been in decline due to poaching, and Tuesday’s project was done in an effort to combat the species’ shrinking numbers.
Just last month, 300 infant turtles were found dead on Oaxaca’s Morro Ayuta Beach on the Pacific coast. The dwindling turtle community is believed to be the fault of climate change and human activity, including hunting as well as destructive commercial fishing practices.
Although poaching the turtles’ eggs is banned by Brazilian authorities, turtle meat and offspring are still targeted by some hunters.
The specific location of Tuesday’s great release, a joint effort between the Bolivian and Brazilian conservationists, was picked for its popularity as a breeding ground for the reptiles.
Appearing in a video of the turtles’ jubilant journey into the deep blue, World Wildlife Fund Brazil technical supervisor Camila Ferrara tells Reuters, “We have chosen this area because it is the largest spawning area for Amazonian turtles.”
“About 100,000 females spawn in this area each year,” she explains, “We expect more than 10 million babies born this year.”
Saving the turtles is not only important to the species itself, but also for the ecosystem, which benefits from the slowpokes. “The turtles are biologically important to the environment due to the recycling of nutrients and dissemination of seeds,” Ferrara explained.
Last month, in a similar conservation effort, 3,000 baby turtles native to the Amazon rainforest were released in Peru after hatching from eggs on artificial beaches, Reuters reported at the time.
“Go! Go be happy!” said one onlooker.