By Mengey Eng
| May 10, 2017
Sre Ambel, Koh Kong Province (May 10, 2017) – After being protected for three months, nine new hatchlings of Royal Turtle successfully hatched and were taken to Koh Kong Reptile Conservation Centre, Koh Kong Province, for feeding, raising and possibly breeding in the future.
The Royal Turtle, also known as Southern River Terrapin (Batagur affinis), is one of the world’s most endangered freshwater turtles and is listed on the IUCN Red List as Critically Endangered. The species is also Cambodia’s National Reptile.
In February 2017, one nest of Royal Turtle with 14 eggs was found by a villager along the Kaong River, the only place the species is still found in Cambodia. Royal Turtle Conservation Team from the Fisheries Administration (FiA) and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) went to check the nest; built a fence to protect the eggs; and hired a villager to guard the nest until those eggs are hatched.
“I am delighted to see those eggs are successfully hatched, and the hatchlings are taken to conservation center in Koh Kong Province. I am proud of the result, especially be part of conserving Cambodia’s Royal Turtles from extinction”, said Long Sman, who have guarded the Royal Turtle nest for three months.
The turtle was believed extinct in Cambodia until 2000 when a small population was re-discovered by FiA and WCS in the Sre Ambel River. A community-based protection program was implemented in Sre Ambel and employs former egg collectors to search for and protect nests, instead of harvesting the eggs.
“There are only a few Royal Turtles left in the wild, so numbers of their nests are also low. This year, conservation team found only one nest compared to two nests found in 2016 and three nests in 2015,” said Som Sitha, WCS’s Technical Advisor to Sre Ambel Conservation Project.
“This is a big concern for Royal turtle conservation. If sand dredging, illegal clearance of flooded forest and illegal fishing still continues, Our National Reptile species will face high risk of extinction,” he added.
This project is implemented in partnership with Wildlife Reserves Singapore