19/10/2017 12:53 PM AEDT | Updated 19/10/2017 12:54 PM AEDT

Thousands Of Baby River Turtles Released Into The Wild In The Amazon

700,000 hatchlings will eventually be released.

LIMA, Oct 18 (Reuters) - Peru released more than 5,000 baby turtles into an Amazonian nature reserve this week, part of a group of 700,000 being hatched artificially in 2017 to keep their eggs from being depleted by excessive hunting in the wild, a park official said on Wednesday.

The latest batch of baby yellow-spotted Amazon river turtles was set free on Tuesday in the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve, said Alfredo Neyra, the head of the reserve.

Peru's park service regularly collects the turtles' eggs from Amazonian river beaches, where they are sought for protein by residents of the region of Loreto. The meat of adult turtles is also eaten.

While the yellow-spotted Amazon river turtle is not endangered, authorities discourage non-traditional hunting of its eggs to avoid reducing the size of its population.

In the four years through 2016, about 2.1 million turtles were artificially hatched and released, Neyra said.

Bruno Kelly / Reuters
The Quelonios turtle hatchlings were released into a lake in the Amazon.
Bruno Kelly / Reuters
This tiny one peeks out from under a leaf on the lake's surface.
STRINGER Brazil / Reuters
Children play with quelonios turtle hatchlings before they are released.
Bruno Kelly / Reuters
The hatchlings were released by the Pe-de-Pincha project.

(Reporting by Marco Aquino; Writing By Mitra Taj; Editing by Peter Cooney)