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December 2, 2010

ULM's Carr participates in Brazilian conservation workshop

ULM Biology Professor John Carr recently participated in a workshop in the Brazilian Amazon, joining several scientists and conservationists who had gathered to evaluate the conservation status of South America's tortoises and freshwater turtles.

The meeting was convened to update the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species. The Red List is the global standard for the evaluation of relative extinction risk of all species of fauna and flora, and is continuously being updated and refined to most accurately reflect the current conservation status of species, according to Dr. Carr. Continental South American tortoises and freshwater turtles were last evaluated for inclusion on the list in 1996, he said.

The workshop provided participants ample opportunity for networking and discussions of turtle biology and conservation, starting with a two-day cruise down the Amazon River to reach the field station.

The workshop involved input from about 35 contributors from nearly a dozen countries of South America and elsewhere. Workshop members concluded that the conservation outlook for South America's turtles is worse than feared. Of the continent's 47 species, 34 percent were provisionally ranked in one of the three Red List categories of threatened with extinction. Three were ranked "critically endangered," another three ranked "endangered," and 10 were considered "vulnerable" to extinction.

Carr said the provisional assessments made during the workshop will undergo a process of collaborative review before being finalized and published in the Red List next year.

The workshop was titled, "Turtle Conservation in South America: A Workshop on IUCN Red Listing, Current Status, Conservation Prioritization, and Strategic Action Planning for South American Tortoises and Freshwater Turtles." It was held Oct. 10-14 at the Reserva Biologica do Rio Trombetas, on the bank of the Trombetas River in Pará, Brazil.

The IUCN Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group convened the workshop, which was organized and co-hosted by the Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia and the Reserva Biologica do Rio Trombetas. Conservation International, the Frankel Family Foundation, and the Panaphil Foundation co-sponsored the event.

Carr was invited to participate based on his experience working with South American turtles extending back to 1985. A long-term member of the IUCN/Species Survival Commission's TFTSG, he most recently has worked with Colombian colleagues to study Pacific coastal turtles in one of the world's biodiversity priority areas – the Tumbes-Choco-Magdalena Hotspot.

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