By Mengey Eng
| December 18, 2017
Kratie (19 December 2017) - A nest of the globally Endangered Asian Giant Softshell Turtle was found so far this season on a sandbar on the Mekong between Kratie and Stung Treng by conservationists of Fisheries Administration (FiA), Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and local communities. This is the only remaining area in the country where these huge turtles still breed. This nest is now being protected by local communities until all eggs are hatched and the hatchlings will be then released into the river.
The Asian Giant Softshell Turtle (Pelochelys cantorii) is listed on the IUCN Red List as globally Endangered. It was thought extinct in the Cambodian portion of the Mekong River until its re-discovery in 2007 in a 48-kilometer stretch of the river in Kratie and Stung Treng provinces. The Mekong Turtle Conservation Project was formerly managed by Conservation International (CI), but in 2017 it was transferred to WCS, with collaboration from FiA and the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA). The community-based protection program encourages the participation of local communities living in Kratie and Stung Treng provinces by hiring former nest collectors to search for and protect nests, instead of harvesting the eggs. Since 2007, 378 nests have been protected and 8,528 hatchlings released.
“From now until June is the breeding period of the Asian Giant Softshell Turtle. This is the first nest we have found so far this year. We will work hard with FiA and local communities to find more nests along the Mekong River and protect them from egg collection,” said Som Sitha, WCS’s Technical Advisor to the Turtle Conservation Project.
“The Asian Giant Softshell Turtle is a very rare species that will become extinct in the near future if we do not take proper action to conserve them. There are not many individuals left. Everyone can help conserve the species by not buying or eating their meat or eggs,” he added.
Conservation of the Asian Giant Softshell Turtle along the Mekong River would not be possible without the support of the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), CI and the TSA.