Hundreds of thousands of people have heard of the Royal Turtle, Cambodia’s National Reptile, but not many are aware that Ms. Tun Sarorn has spent over 10 years taking caring for and feeding captive Royal Turtles.
Tun Sarorn, age 42, is a widow living in Boeung Preav Village, Sre Ambel District of Koh Kong Province. She has cared for the captive turtles since 2006. In her first year she took care of 47 turtle hatchlings in the Sre Ambel Royal Turtle Conservation Center. When the wild turtles hatch from nests protected by community members, the WCS and Fisheries Administration (FiA) team bring them to the conservation center for Tun Sarorn to care for them until they are big enough to be safe from predators and can be released back into the river.
Initially, Sarorn faced many challenges and difficulties in her role well because it was new to her. “First it was so difficult, and I faced problems because I did not have experience in raising turtles. But, I have never thought I would quit, because I love this job,” said Tun Sarorn.
“I tried to learn and spent time with the turtles, and I asked the Project Manager to teach me how to raise those turtles well. After several months, I could solve the issues and understand a lot more about the turtles. I am now confident in caring for the turtles and the number of turtles in the center has increased to more than 200” she added.
Sarorn has received trainings from turtle experts on feeding and care for captive turtles, and experienced veterinarians have provided her with training in conducting basic health screening. She is now able to check the health condition of the turtles to quickly identify whether the animals are healthy or not. If the turtles get sick Sarorn cares for their health and feeds them until they are fully recovered.
“I love the work I do to take care of those turtles. I miss them whenever I go away because I think of them as if they are my children. I hope that they can live well, and will not go extinct,” said Sarorn.
In September 2016, WCS, in partnership with FiA, transferred all 206 Royal Turtles to the newly built Koh Kong Reptile Conservation Center (KKRCC) in Mondul Seima District of Koh Kong Province, more than 100 km from the old center. Because of her love for the Royal Turtle, Saron decided to move to the new center to continue her job, taking care of the Royal Turtles.