|Population Genetics Structure of Magdalena's Endemic Fresh Water Turtle (Podocnemis lewyana) and its Relation with Human Communities: Consequences for its Conservation|
|Abstract: Podocnemis lewyana is a fresh water endemic turtle from the Colombian Magdalena-Uraba ecoregion. It is considered an endangered species in the IUCN red list. It is also listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. These categorizations are due to its habitat destruction and persecution. Local fishing communities have used its meet and eggs for many years. This study will perform a phylogenetic analysis of mtDNA cytochrome b sequences to investigate the genetic variability over its distribution range. It will also try to understand the relationship between the turtle and human communities by collecting and analyzing information about traditional knowledge, utilization and feelings about the turtle. The project will open a participatory scenario for the turtle's conservation awareness and the preliminary evaluation of possible scenarios and conditions for the creation of a community-based conservation program.|
Population Genetics Structure of Magdalena's Endemic Fresh Water Turtle (Podocnemis lewyana) and its Relation with Human Communities: Consequences for its Conservation
Supported by the Scott Neotropical Fund of the Cleveland Zoological Society, Ideawild, University of Amsterdam, and National University of Colombia a research team of four biologists traveled more than 4000 kilometers along Sinu, Magdalena and part of Cauca river basins. . Within four months, more than 26 localities were visited with the aim of discovering the relationship between different human communities and the freshwater Magdalena's endemic, endangered turtle (Podocnemis lewyana), as well as five other related aquatic turtle species: Dahl's toadhead turtle (Batrachemys dahli); pond slider (Trachemys scripta callirostris); scorpion mud turtle (Kinosternon scorpioides); white-lipped mud turtle (Kinosternon leucostomum); Colombian wood turtle (Rhinoclemmys melanosterna); and one terrestrial tortoise species, yellow-footed tortoise (Geochelone denticulata). The necessary biological information was also collected in order to carry out the genetic population study for P. lewyana at a later time.
Overall, at attempt was made to understand the relationships between turtles, local communities, and the natural resources they both depend on through activities like focal discussion groups with fishermen associations, interviews with key informants, painting workshops, and ecological presentations at local schools. Also, rescuing traditional knowledge of these communities regarding the species opened up the opportunity for awareness and the exchange of information and feelings. It was also possible to identify potential scenarios where community-based management and/or conservation program ideas (based on local traditional knowledge) could be carried out at a later time.
For some cultures, turtles and their eggs are important as a source of protein, while for others they have a strong religious meaning; many myths and legends are related to these magic animals. For some other cultures they were essential for traditional medical treatments (among many other uses). It is evident that local people and the turtle species have been intimately related for centuries.
Unfortunately, in this day and age almost every single population of these turtle species is having difficulty. Some populations have already disappeared and several more are deeply affected, mainly as a result of habitat intervention (destruction, pollution, etc...)
Many thanks to The Scott Neotropical Fund of the Cleveland Zoological Society, the continental turtles research group of the Instituto de Ciencias Naturales in Colombia, the visited communities and the other financial sources for giving this invaluable opportunity to start a life-changing quest and also for what will surely be a very interesting and fruitful program of biological research.