Turtles to help river life come out of its shell

Four mature soft-shelled turtles, including one female, were released into the Kishon River last week to join the growing turtle population in the recovering river, reports www.local.co.il. Officials from the Kishon River Authority released the turtles after obtaining them from the Huleh nature reserve, where hundreds of the creatures have been hatched in recent years. According to the report, soft-shelled turtles, which can grow to one meter in length and inhabit both freshwater and saltwater areas, were once common in Israel's rivers but have been greatly reduced in numbers by decades of pollution. The International Organization for the Protection of Turtles says the Mediterranean soft-shelled turtle is in danger of extinction. The report said the Kishon River Authority has been working with the Nature and Parks Authority to return the turtles to the river, which is being rehabilitated after years of pollution. A Kishon River Authority spokeswoman said that in the past two years inspectors had begun finding turtle nests in the river mouth, and they had seen growing numbers of mature turtles of some 80 cm in length. Adding new turtles to the river aims to strengthen the existing population. The spokeswoman said the authority had placed hundreds of turtles in the river so far, and was working on creating an area to protect turtle eggs, both those laid in the Kishon and those brought over from the Huleh, from predators. She said that as well as returning turtles to the river, the authority was bringing other species back too, including fish and snails.