By Mengey Eng
| March 20, 2018
Kratie (21 March 2018) – Conservationists from Fisheries Administration (FiA) WCS and community members have found 20 nests of Asian Giant Softshell Turtle containing 663 eggs on sand bars along the Mekong River in Kratie Province this nesting season in 2018. Illegal collection of eggs and capture of adults for consumption and sale still continues that is putting this species at high risk of extinction.
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.
“In total, we have found 35 nests, but eggs of 15 nests were already illegally taken away when we arrived. We are now protecting 20 nests with 663 eggs until they hatch. Four community members are now working hard to protect these nests,” Nguon Chanti, WCS Project Coordinator for the Asian Giant Softshell Turtle Project.
“As of March, 132 turtles have hatched from the protected nests. We are rearing them and will release them into the river soon,” he added.
The turtle nest protection program is a part of a project implemented by WCS in collaboration with the FiA and Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA). This program encourages the participation of local communities living in Kratie and Stung Treng Provinces by hiring former egg collectors to search for and protect nests, instead of harvesting the eggs.
“Market demand leads to illegal egg and adult collection of Asian Giant Softshell Turtle along the Mekong River. This is a big concern for this species conservation,” said Ouk Vibol, Director of Fisheries Conservation Department of FiA.
“Increasing awareness on the endangered fisheries species as well as participation in conservation from local authorities and communities is a very good solution to protect the species for next generation. Please help protect the Asian Giant Softshell Turtle by not buying and eating its eggs and wild meat. Collection of eggs or adults for consumption or sale is illegal in Cambodia,” 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.
WCS works to save turtles and tortoises around the world. In 2012, WCS launched an organization-wide program to revive some of the most endangered turtle and tortoise species. Efforts include breeding programs at WCS’s zoos in New York, head start programs abroad, and working with governments and communities to save species on the brink of extinction.