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- Photo via Ministry of Public Security -

River turtles rescued from captivity in Limón

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Published on Thursday, July 6, 2023
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Officials of the National Coast Guard Service, from the Limón Beach station, in Limón Province, rescued ten green river turtles (Dermatemys mawii) that were kept in captivity.

According to the police report, during a routine patrol, officers detected a boat crossing the Banano River, near the Westfalia district.

Officers managed to witness many turtles as part of the boat's cargo.

Allegedly, the suspects ran their boat aground near the bridge over the river and managed to escape in a 4x4 vehicle that was parked alongside the dock, police said.

However, with the help of police officers from the Ministry of Security, the crew was detained near the dock.

On the boat, the park rangers found the green river turtles. They were rescued and taken to an animal rescue center located in Puerto Viejo Beach, where they were examined by vets to determine their health conditions.

The boat, vehicle and other nautical instruments were seized as evidence in the case.

The six crew members were identified as two men and a woman with the surname Quiros. The remaining crewmen were three men with the surnames Montero, Arrieta and Jimenez.

The crew was taken before the Limón Public Ministry as suspects of committing a wildlife conservation crime.

Taking wild animals and keeping them in captivity is a crime in Costa Rica. According to Wildlife Conservation Law No.7317, people found guilty of keeping wild species in captivity could pay a fine between $600 to $26,000 or even receive a prison sentence of one to three years.

Anonymous complaints about wild animals hunting or in captivity can be made by calling line 1192.

The Central American river turtle is a relatively large-bodied species, with records of 1 meter straight carapace length and weights of 50 kg although most individuals are smaller.  

This is a herbivorous and almost completely aquatic turtle that does not even surface to bask. Bizarrely for reptiles, the eggs can remain viable even after being underwater for weeks -in the recent past, some scientists mistakenly claimed it nests underwater, likely due to visiting Central America during a frequent flood, when nests are often submerged.

The species has been over-hunted because it is valued by local people as meat food.

Recently, park rangers rescued a jaguar (Panthera onca) that was in captivity on a private property located in San José Province.

What have you heard from people who keep wild animals in captivity in your community? We would like to know your thoughts on this story. Send your comments to news@amcostarica.com