Siem Reap, Cambodia (October 19, 2016) - Twenty-five Royal Turtles have settled into their new home at the Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity (ACCB) in Siem Reap. This move creates a second captive population after 206 turtles were moved to the Koh Kong Reptile Conservation Centre in Mondul Seima district of Koh Kong Province in September.
The Royal Turtle, also known as Southern River Terrapin (Batagur affinis), is one of the world’s most endangered freshwater turtles. It is listed on the IUCN Red List as Critically Endangered, and has been designated as Cambodia’s National Reptile by a Royal Decree issued in 2005. A recent increase in disturbance along the Sre Ambel River System in Koh Kong Province, the only place the species is still found in Cambodia, is putting this species at great risk.
“When managing captive populations of very rare animals, it is international best practice to not keep all individuals in one location. So-called ‘assurance colonies’ help manage the risks of hazards such as natural disasters, major disease outbreaks or other unforeseen incidents, so that if such a catastrophe happens the entire population is not affected,” said Mr Ouk Vibol, Director of Fisheries Conservation Department at the Cambodian Fisheries Administration. “Even those 25 Royal turtles moved to ACCB remain property of Cambodian government and under management of Fisheries Administration.”
Situated near the famous temples of Angkor Wat, ACCB was the first nature conservation and endangered wildlife rescue and breeding centre in Cambodia.
“Since arriving, the Royal Turtles have adapted very well to the new environment and can be regularly seen at the surface,” said Michael Meyerhoff, ACCB Project Manager. “Due to the young age of the females, breeding is still not likely for the next couple of years. ACCB's veterinarian and animal keeping staff will continue to monitor their well-being and follow up on regular health-checks of those turtles.”
The Royal Turtle was believed extinct in Cambodia until 2000 when a small population was re-discovered by FiA and WCS in the Sre Ambel River. It is now facing threats to its very survival due to habitat loss caused by increased sand dredging and illegal clearance of flooded forest.
“Protecting natural habitat and wild population is the most urgent prirority to save the Royal Turtle from extinction,” said Dr. Ross Sinclair, Country Director of WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) Cambodia Programme. “We need to immediately solve the problem of increased sand dredging and illegal clearance of flooded forest in Sre Ambel if Royal Turtles are to survive in the wild.” The captive breeding at ACCB and Koh Kong Reptile Conservation Centre are also essential parts of the conservation efforts WCS and ACCB are conducting with the Fisheries Administration.
Notes to Editor:
·In September 2016, WCS in partnership with the Fisheries Administration (FiA) announced the transfer of 206 of Cambodia’s national reptiles - known as Royal Turtles -to a new purpose-built breeding and conservation center in Mondol Seima district of Koh Kong province.
·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. Hatchlings from protected nests are then taken into captivity where they are raised until several years old. Having been “head started“ the turtles are better able to survive when released back into the wild.
WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society)
MISSION: WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature. To achieve our mission, WCS, based at the Bronx Zoo, harnesses the power of its Global Conservation Program in nearly 60 nations and in all the world’s oceans and its five wildlife parks in New York City, visited by 4 million people annually. WCS combines its expertise in the field, zoos, and aquarium to achieve its conservation mission. Visit: newsroom.wcs.org Follow: @WCSNewsroom. For more information: 347-840-1242.