Central American River Turtle (Dermatemys mawii), FMNH catalogue no. 4163. Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago. Conservation status: critically endangered. The Central American River Turtle was overhunted in the 1970s in Central America and Mexico such that nearly all populations are now non-viable, meaning beyond recovery and incapable of sustaining themselves. Legal protection has not stopped capture and consumption.
As biologists describe new species and add to our understanding of the interrelated nature of life on Earth, a species becomes extinct every 20 minutes (100 to 1000 times the background extinction rate as seen in the fossil record). Collections in natural history museums play important roles in conservation, education and research. Most of that work and the associated specimens are not on public display in museumsÃ¢€š typically, less than five percent of specimens are exhibited.