SRE AMBEL, Cambodia, May 22, 2023 - In an extraordinary achievement for conservation efforts, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Cambodia reports a record-breaking 122 Royal Turtle hatchlings at the Koh Kong Reptile Conservation Center (KKRCC) during the 2023 breeding season.
This year, KKRCC collected 21 nests with a total of 272 eggs. From these, 122 Royal Turtles successfully hatched, a significant increase from the previous year, which saw nine nests and 81 eggs produce 31 hatchlings.
"This is a true conservation success story," said Christopher Poyser, Koh Kong Reptile Conservation Center Manager. "The substantial increase in hatchlings is a testament to our hard work and commitment to conserving this critically endangered species. We are optimistic about next year’s breeding season and expect the number of hatchlings to continue to increase."
The Royal Turtle, scientifically known as the Southern River Terrapin (Batagur affinis), is listed on the IUCN Red List as Critically Endangered and is among the world's 25 most endangered freshwater turtles and tortoises. In 2005, it was designated as Cambodia's National Reptile by a Royal Decree, further highlighting the importance of its conservation.
The primary threats to the Royal Turtle include targeted hunting, incidental capture in fishing gear for local consumption and international trade, and destruction of its nesting habitat through sand extraction, deforestation, and land grabbing.
To combat these threats, WCS Cambodia, in long-term partnership with the Fisheries Administration (FiA) of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) and Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity (ACCB), and financially supported by Mandai Nature, Turtle Survival Alliance, and Alan and Patricia Koval Foundation, implements various conservation interventions. These efforts aim to restore the wild populations of Royal Turtles through both in-situ and ex-situ conservation methods and monitored releases. Additionally, WCS develops opportunities for local communities to participate in the conservation of the river system.
Mr. Ouk Vibol, Director of the Fisheries Conservation Department, said, “We are very proud to learn that many hatchlings hatched from the center this year. This is a new hope for restoring the species in Cambodia. We strongly encourage and support the continuation of this captive breeding program to restore this species in the future, and we hope this species will survive for our next generation. For the field program, I strongly hope that local people and authorities work closely together to protect the critical habitat for this species."
KKRCC currently holds 281 Royal Turtles, including 50 adults for breeding and 231 sub-adults, juveniles, and hatchlings. Since 2015, WCS Cambodia has reintroduced 166 young adult Royal Turtles into the wild in Sre Ambel, contributing further to the conservation of this critical species.
For more photos of the hatchlings and the WCS team at work, please visit https://bit.ly/3Mcv7pl.
About WCS Cambodia
Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Cambodia is dedicated to saving wildlife and wild places in Cambodia through science, conservation action, and inspiring people to value nature. WCS has been working in Cambodia since 1999, focusing on conserving key wildlife species and their habitats. For more information, please visit https://cambodia.wcs.org/.