During the first week of March 2016, 158 charapas turtles (Podocnemis unifilis) were released on the Napo River in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Eighteen students from the local school of Indillama; 24 students of the Unidad Educativa Amawta de Samai, Pompeya; and passengers of the Manatee Amazon Explorer were part of the release. This activity is part of the Programme for Participatory Management for Charapas Turtles Conservation implemented by the Wildlife Conservation Society Ecuador (WCS), in partnership with local communities, the Ministry of Environment and with financial support from Overbrook Foundation and MITSUBISHI FOUNDATION FOR THE AMERICAS (AGCM).
The charapas turtles (P. expansa and P. unifilis) are very important for their crucial ecological role as seed dispersers, cleaners, and water system as a food source for other aquatic species. Because in the Ecuadorian Amazon the turtles are being heavily threatened by overexploitation of their eggs for consumption and sale in local markets, this management program was created as an alternative for the recovery of stocks. This process includes training local monitors, collecting turtle eggs charapas natural beaches, incubation in sandboxes, and release of hatchlings in the wild.