Conservation Action

Turtle Survival Alliance works with our principal partner in Colombia, Wildlife Conservation Society, to positively impact currently declining population trajectories of three Critically Endangered freshwater turtles across three primary eco regions, as well as several other at-risk species.

To do this we identify and translocate naturally-occurring nests, release hatchlings, construct artificial nesting beaches, perform and support field surveys and studies, perform genetic studies, acquire land, protect and restore habitat, protect nesting beaches and nesting female turtles, and engage local communities.

To secure a future for the Dahl’s Toad-headed Turtle, TSA with our partners Rainforest Trust and the Wildlife Conservation Society, purchased and now manages a large parcel of land featuring the most abundant and genetically diverse population of the Critically Endangered species in the country. Known as La Carranchina Natural Reserve, the land parcel is the first protected area for a turtle in Colombia.

In the village of Cotocá Arriba, in Colombia’s Sinú Valley Dry ecoregion, Turtle Survival Alliance partners with the community-based Tortugas del Sinú to stave off local extinction of the Magdalena River Turtle. The Critically Endangered species has experienced high egg mortality for several decades along this stretch of the Sinú due to hydroelectric dam flooding nesting beaches. The program for their preservation is based on four primary actions:

1. Building artificial nesting beaches, protecting females during nesting season, and excluding cattle intrusion into nesting areas
2. Rescuing nests from flood-prone beaches, incubating eggs under controlled conditions, and releasing hatchlings
3. Population monitoring
4. Environmental outreach and education

In 2021 we completed an education center and a tour route guiding visitors through the community of Cotocá Arriba; presenting key aspects of the program’s history, the river, and their role in protecting the Magdelana River Turtle.

Turtle Survival Alliance also partners with a local community along the Meta River of northeastern Colombia’s plains to stave off population declines for the second largest known population—and largest outside the Amazon region—of Giant South American River Turtle. Through Proyecto Vida Silvestre, we establish conservation agreements with the villages of Nueva Antioquia and Santa Maria de La Virgen to set aside protected nesting beaches; recruit local villagers to conduct surveillance of the protected beaches to reduce collection of reproducing females and their eggs; monitor reproductive parameters during nesting season; and evaluate the effectiveness of the various conservation efforts.

This program has hatched and released over 140,000 turtles, reduced collection on protected beaches to almost zero, and reduced collection and consumption of the Critically Endangered species in nearby villages due to their awareness of and participation in the work.

The tropical dry forest of northern Colombia is one of the most degraded and transformed ecosystems in the country with less than 9% remaining intact. The rest has been converted to cattle pastures, crops, and infrastructure, significantly affecting the ecosystem’s flora and fauna. A victim of this process is the Dahl’s Toad-headed Turtle, endemic to northern Colombia and the only species from the family Chelidae to occur west of the Andes. 

To secure a future for the Dahl’s Toad-headed Turtle, the TSA partnered with Rainforest Trust and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), searching for a land parcel to establish the first-ever reserve for the species. For two years, the team investigated potential sites across the species’ geographic range, evaluating their suitability to serve as a reserve. On Tuesday, December 17, 2019, the team formally signed documents acquiring a 120-hectare (296 acre) parcel in San Benito Abad, Sucre, Colombia. This reserve gives this little turtle a real fighting chance for survival and gives managers an opportunity to restore a genetically healthy and thriving wild population. 

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Lead Partners and Supporters

Project Team

Germán Forero-Medina

Science Director
Wildlife Conservation Society

Igor Valencia

Turtle Specialist
Wildlife Conservation Society

Natalia Gallego