Chelonians (turtles and tortoises) of the Amazon Basin have constituted a source of food for native populations since pre-Columbian times and have continued to be an important product for subsistence and cash income. Little is known about current levels of exploitation and pressure on natural stocks, despite observations of declining populations of the larger and most valued species. This study investigates how people living in the Negro River area use Amazonian chelonians, including issues of consumption, preferences, restrictions, segmentary taboos, harmfulness, medicinal use, and sale. We conducted interviews with fishing families in the city of Barcelos and in Jaú National Park, both located in the Rio Negro basin, in the state of Amazonas, Brazil. All chelonian species are used by these riverine people, especially for food. Peltocephalus dumerilianus is caught year round, whereas the capture of other species is more frequent during the dry season. Terrestrial species are collected whenever found in the forest. Herbivorous species are preferred as food; omnivorous or carnivorous species are subject to food taboos. Two species are largely used as medicines, mainly to treat swelling and hemorrhages. Fat and epidermal scutes (scales) are widely used. At least four species are exploited commercially.
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Vol. 30 • No. 1