An adult female Royal Turtle was killed by illegal electro-fishing in the Sre Ambel area last week. The dead turtle, which is over 11 years old and weighs 9kg, was found dead along the Kaong River. The team of Fisheries Administration (FiA) and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) staff who found the turtle believes that it was killed by illegal electro-fishing due to marks on its head.
Cambodia’s Royal Turtle (Batagur affinis), also known as the Southern River Terrapin, is one of the world’s most endangered turtles and faces numerous threats to its survival due. These include habitat loss caused by increased sand dredging and illegal clearance of flooded forest and accidental capture or death through illegal fishing. The dead turtle that was found last week is one of 21 Royal Turtles that the FiA-WCS conservation team released in 2015 with radio transmitters and ID micro-chips.
“To further protect the Royal Turtle and stop illegal fishing activities, FiA is developing a fisheries conservation and management zone in Sre Ambel District, Koh Kong Province,” said Mr. Ouk Vibol, Director of Fisheries Conservation Department with FiA.
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. 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.
“We are extremely sad that one of Royal Turtles we released in 2015 was killed. Illegal fishing activities along the Kaong River are a big threat and could cause Cambodia’s national reptile to disappear from Cambodia forever if we do not take immediate action to stop it,” said Mr. Som Sitha, Technical Advisor to the project.
“I would highly encourage local authorities, communities and fishermen to participate in Royal Turtle conservation and stop using electro-fishing equipment to save Cambodia’s Royal Turtle from extinction,” he added.