Effects of Exploitation
on Dermatemys mawii Populations in Northern Belize
and Conservation Strategies for Rural Riverside Villages

Atanacio “Taniko” Soler with typical adult female Dermatemys, lower Río Bravo, Belize.


Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611, USA

       ABSTRACT:  Dermatemys mawii is a large, highly aquatic, herbivorous freshwater turtle of the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean drainages of southern Mexico, Belize, and Guatemala.  Because Dermatemys lays its eggs in scattered locations during the high water periods of the late rainy season, exploitation of nesting females and their eggs is inconsequential.  Exploitation is primarily for meat and is most intense during the latter part of the dry season.  All three methods of capture in northern Belize are selective for large juveniles and adults.  The effects of relentless hunting have been decreased densities and population structures skewed towards juveniles, with a marked reduction in the proportion of mature females.
       Dermatemys nesting behavior makes headstarting programs impractical.  Management recommendations have focused on increasing adult survivorship through reduction of large-scale commercial exploitation.  In the absence of strong enforcement capabilities, and in an area of low human population density, legal restriction of commercial hunters’ activities has proven a feasible initial strategy.  By allowing continued small-scale removal by subsistence hunters, the support of that numerically larger constituency may be maintained.

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