Abstract

Marine turtles are considered by people of several cultures to be a gift from God. This belief often leads to the use of these reptiles in the traditional and belief systems among aboriginal peoples. Certainly this is the case among Wayuú people, who are an indigenous group settled between Venezuela and Colombia, in the Guajira Peninsula. To assess the value of marine turtles to Wayuú ancestral people, especially as a medicinal resource, we carried out a comprehensive open-ended question-based survey of traditional healers and caretakers (locally known as Piaches and Oütsüs) from 4 Wayuú communities in the Venezuelan portion of the Guajira Peninsula. We documented customary practices where marine turtles' body parts are used as a key element of the remedies. Eleven marine turtle body parts were identified by respondents as remedies used by Wayuú people, with 7 different ways to administer them (drink, worn, powder, among others). Four of the 5 species of marine turtles present in Venezuelan waters were identified as being used in the traditional pharmacopoeia of Wayuú people; their traditional names are included on this article. Some considerations about the Wayuú's cosmovision, customs, traditions, and belief systems are included here. Our results are important in the context of likely future evaluation of the current Venezuelan legal framework to consider inclusion of traditional use of marine turtles in Venezuela.

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