A shocking and distressing account of the brutality, cruelty and senseless stupidity of human kind. I just wish that kind was the operative word!
During the nineteenth century a “war of extermination” was being raged against turtles in the Amazon basin, a slaughter so intense that contemporary observers saw the threat of extinction as a real and immediate danger. The reason? To provide fuel and feed the region’s ever-increasing influx of settlers, who ignored the sustainable turtle-harvesting practices of the native Indians and relentlessly pursued the arrau turtle (podocnemis expansa), the most prized of freshwater turtles. These reptiles are typically called the tartaruga grande, when mature reaching as much as to 90 kilos in weight and over one metre in length.
Often referred to as “the beef of the Amazon”, turtle meat leant itself, in the words of the nineteenth-century Brazilian natural historian and explorer Lopes Gonçalves, “to the most exquisite condiments”. Roasting was the most straightforward cooking method – and by some accounts the most delicious – although it…
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