The Central American river turtle (Dermatemys mawii).
© Thomas Rainwater
The Central American river turtle (Dermatemys mawii), is a big and, indeed, rather boring-looking vegetarian turtle. But it’s a fascinating creature, the last species of a group that traces its ancestry back to the time of the dinosaurs – with no obvious changes in appearance.
The turtle is highly important as a commercial species in the areas where it’s found. Its meat is so greatly esteemed, particularly for religious celebrations, that collectors will fly chartered planes into remote wetlands to collect specimens. Conservation of this species is thus important not just for the animal itself, but for the people who rely on the sustainable use of D. mawii for economic well-being.
IN PHOTOS: View a photo gallery of endangered turtles.